Tag Archives: cloud

How Will the Cloud Change Computers?

Kelsey Clark brings her perspective on “The Cloud” in this guest article.

The Cloud is one of the tech world’s most-discussed concepts. Embracing a wide variety of different paradigms, the Cloud is an evolving concept. The basics of what the Cloud means, however, are well established. Here are a few questions people are asking themselves about what the Cloud will mean for computing in the future.

1. Security Changes
With the data stored on remote hard drives and computation being done on remote processors, the Cloud promises to move most security issues to servers. Local security issues will not necessarily lead to data being compromised. However, server security will become even more important; compromising a major Cloud server will potentially lead to thousands or millions of users having their data compromised. Are current security measures enough to prevent hackers from accessing personal data?

2. Privacy
Having all data on a remote site will raises questions about how companies will use this data. Will minor encroachments on privacy be met with customer resistance? Will users tolerate having their data scanned and used for targeted ads? In the tech world, low prices help increase a customer base. Finding the right balance of low cost and sufficient privacy, however, may take some time for the market to determine.

3. Performance
For some types of programs, the Cloud paradigm works well. Whether all programs can be run in a Cloud environment, however, remains an open question. Some envision the future Cloud as a paradigm that takes advantage of local processing power and RAM, but others believe that this eliminates some of the advantages of Cloud computing. Further developments may be necessary to ensure that the Cloud performs as well as users demand.

4. Operating Systems
Some are speculating if the Cloud will remove the importance of having a modern operating system. A browser may be all that is necessary to run important programs, so will users begin to use alternative operating systems more often? Apple’s operating systems currently suffer from their inability to run certain industry-specific programs needed for work, and Linux distributions flourish in the server world but languish on the desktop. Will the Cloud increase these platforms’ presences?

5. Sense of Ownership
Many expect that the Cloud programs of the future will require that users pay a monthly or yearly fee to access the program. In this sense, users do not truly own the program. Studies have shown that people prefer to buy products outright instead of paying for access when necessary. Will this lead consumers to reject the Cloud?

The Cloud is clearly making inroads in the business world. For individuals, however, its impact remains unclear. With a number of programs expected to become available online in the coming years, the tech world may get some indication on how popular the Cloud will be.

Author Byline:

Kelsey is the editor in chief for www.findananny.net/. She loves to write article and ideas that parents & nannies would be interested in hearing. She helps society on giving information about nannies through nanny services. She is a professional writer and loves writing on anything.

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Filed under Cloud Computing, Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Opinion

Five Steps for a Secure Cloud Transition

In this post, guest author David Maman, CTO and founder of GreenSQL – the database security company – lays out a series of simple steps for cloud migration – ensuring security is systematically addressed.

Five Steps for a Secure Cloud Transition

imageAlmost every type of SMB is examining it’s current IT infrastructure, determining what data and processes can move to the cloud. Of course, security remains one of the biggest concerns.

Here are five steps to make the transition much safer for your data, and your company:

1. Understanding my “Attackability Surface”: Before considering migrating to the cloud, map every project component, and map all the hazards. Including which operating systems will be used, which applications will be installed, which types of security mechanisms are required for each component and, which types of access are required for each service running on this cloud.

Generally, after truly understanding the project scope, the risk becomes controllable.

2. Sharing is Not Caring: Many times, using cloud services involves sharing infrastructure and applications with others, which means that the risk factor is multiplied.

The lack of security configuration at one customer, of application vulnerabilities by other customers, can lead to data loss in your databases. Make sure which components you share, and which are dedicated to you.

Often, when it comes to your customers’ or employees’ sensitive information, you cannot avoid purchasing a private cloud for most components.

3. Command and Control: Demand your cloud providers give you true control and monitoring of any, and all, security components. If necessary, even insist that only you will be able to change the configuration of these components.

If it’s just a network firewall, if it’s a web application firewall, if it’s a database firewall or any other element, those elements ensure your level of risk and your business survival on the cloud. Make sure you are aware of any changes in any security element.

4. The Cat in the Hat: The “Cloud” is a beautiful buzzword; every vendor in the entire IT segment is using the word “Cloud” in presentations and sales speeches. But eventually we have to understand, “Cloud” is really only a hosting service; it might be more advanced; it might support “elastic” growth; it might even provide an extremely easy user interface.

Please make sure you understand that the “Cloud” is “smart” shared hosting, which means that many people may have physical access to the servers that host your data and operating systems.

You can almost never be sure that if – your servers have restarted, it’s not because someone copied the hard drive you are using. Encrypt what you can, and make sure that the most sensitive information is not on the “Cloud.”

5. Software As A Service (SaaS) can work: Salesforce taught us that SaaS can actually work, with extremely high business continuity and extremely high levels of security.

Many Fortune 1000 companies use Salesforce with some of their most sensitive information. The thing is is that Salesforce has invested $100s of millions on infrastructure and security, which more than 90% of other SaaS providers will ever be able to afford.

So, if you decide to go forward and adopt a SaaS provider, keep in mind that size does matter; the bigger the provider (and we’re not talking about boutique providers who cost a fortune), the more secured they are.

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Filed under Cloud Computing, Guest Writers

Cloud Computing: Easy Target for Cyber Criminals?

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr., has some definite ideas on the US government’s decision to employ Google’s cloud based computing model. Paul explains why, in his view, this risky venture will play into the hands of cyber criminals.

Here’s Paul’s report:

clip_image002The use of cloud computing by organizations to rent office productivity applications such as word processing, databases, spreadsheets, and presentations is less expensive than the current method of purchasing application packages/licenses.

However, any money saved by renting cloud-based applications rather than purchasing applications for use on local servers will, in my opinion, be lost and more, because of a much higher probability of having the data stored in the cloud hacked and stolen.

This opinion is based on the fact that the documents stored in the cloud are, for all intents and purposes, stored in one virtual location that is a big fat target for cyber criminals.

Consider that with the current method of using office productivity tools to create and store an organization’s documents, they’re stored on various servers owned by the organization.

Depending on the size of the organization, these documents will be spread across many different servers and storage devices, possibly on a common network. The advantage in protecting the data is that a cyber criminal will have a more difficult time gaining access to the many locations than if there were only one location to attack.

Here’s the really scary part. The US Government has recently awarded Google a security clearance for their cloud computing applications; indicating that they are clearing the way to begin using cloud computing, states a recent Los Angeles Times article: Google, Good enough for government work.

This is the same government that this past year was the victim of advanced persistent threat attacks that resulted in the loss of extremely sensitive national security-related data across numerous agencies.

Since cloud computing-based applications are also vulnerable to advanced persistent threat attacks…it seems to me we’ve just made the cyber criminals’ job a lot easier because once the crooks have gained access to one agency’s cloud-based applications, a huge advantage in itself, they’re smart enough to be able to access those of other agencies as well. Yep, one big fat target; the bad guys are salivating on their tee shirts as we speak.

Advanced Persistent Threat: Targeting an organization’s specific individuals who have elevated access in order to gain long-term, clandestine entry to applications and data.

If you’re wondering why the US Government would allow this to happen in the first place…I can hear the bureaucrats [defined: an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment] saying “We changed to cloud computing because it saved us lots of money. We didn’t know it was unsafe.” ‘Nuff said…they’re gonna to do it.

Let Paul know your opinion on this issue by commenting on this article; we all learn from each other when our views and opinions are shared.

Guest writer Paul E. Lubic, Jr. is a long time IT professional who has held the positions of programmer, IT Security Manager and Chief Information Officer.  His interests lie in the IT security area, but he writes on all categories of technology.

Paul is a mature and seasoned writer, with a rare ability to break down complex issues into an easy to understand format. Check him out at his Blog – Paul’s Home Computing.

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Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, cybercrime, Google, Guest Writers

Download Immunet Protect 2 – Free Cloud Based Antivirus Application

When I first reviewed Immunet Protect in May of this year ( while it was still in Beta), I was impressed with it’s light use of system resources and bandwidth. Now, with the official release of Version 2, (June 17, 2010), I’m even more impressed.

Immunet Protect is a lightweight cloud based, community driven, antivirus application, (available in both a free, and a fee version), designed to add a layer of protection while working in partnership with the most popular antimalware solutions.

On my principal home machine for example, Immunet Protect lines up with Microsoft Security Essentials and ThreatFire, to shore up any vulnerabilities my system might have to to zero-day threats.

Zero-day threats are those that are defined as malware that has been written and distributed to take advantage of system vulnerabilities, before security developers can create, and release, counter measures.

In real time, Immunet Protect keeps track of the state of security in the collective community (network), and should a member of the network (the community), encounter malware, you (as a member of the protected community), are instantly protected against the threat.

A rather more impressive security solution than having to wait for a malware definition database update. An update that may take several days. Days in which you are effectively open to infection.

The Beta version had limited functionality since it did not provide complete scanning – it acted as a defender only. But, all that has changed with the addition of new features in the final release, which include:

Two active scanning engines

Custom Scan

Scheduled scan

Context menu scan

And more

Just like the Beta, the final release was equally straightforward to install, and ran without complication.

If you’ve used the Beta release you’ll find (as the following screen capture illustrates), a substantially improved user interface, with much more functionality.

Immunet new 2

Setting the operating parameters (the protection settings), is straightforward. In the following screen capture you’ll notice tooltip pop outs which explain the function of each setting. A very cool feature for less experienced users.

Immunet new 3

During my initial full scan, CPU usage ran at roughly 20% on a dual core machine. And, system memory usage was surprisingly low at only 36 MB, as the following screen capture shows.

Immunet new 1

I have a preference for antimalware solutions that include the ability to launch a specific file scan from the Windows Explorer context menu, and Immunet Protect has included this feature.

image

Should you consider installing, and running, a Cloud Antivirus as supplementary antimalware protection?

If you are uncertain, then consider this:

The Internet is an uncertain world at the best of times

Cybercriminals design specific malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required.

No single security application is capable (nor should we expect a single application to be capable), of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist, in protection capabilities, in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps.

A cloud based protective solution, in this case Immunet Protect, is a major step in shoring up any weaknesses, or gaps, and significantly increase your overall ability to detect malware.

Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for lack of experience, and intuitiveness, when surfing the Internet. So, I’ll repeat what I have said here, many times – “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals.”

Immunet Protect Fast facts:

Fast Antivirus: Immunet leverages the speed of cloud computing to deliver real-time protection to your PC

Light Antivirus: Immunet is up to 35 times lighter than traditional antivirus solutions

Real-time Antivirus: Immunet provides cloud-based protection that is always up-to-date against viruses, spyware, bots, worms, Trojans, and keyloggers without slowing down your PC. No need to download any virus signature files!

Companion Antivirus: Immunet is compatible with existing antivirus products to help protect you better. Add an extra, lightweight layer of protection for free

Community Antivirus: Immunet’s Collective Immunity technology protects all users the instant that a virus is detected on one PC

System requirements: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or later, Vista (32-bit and 64 bit), Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: Developer’s site

A final note: I recommend that you approach installation cautiously, since you will be offered the opportunity to install the Ask.com toolbar. There are reports that some users had the toolbar installed despite their refusal. If, this is the case, Immunet Protect needs to address this issue immediately.

In March of this year, I wrote a piece “We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar!”, which drew a large number of outraged comments from readers, aimed at software developers.

So, I’ll repeat, for the benefit of developers, a statement I made in that article –

“Stop with the crapware already. If you’re pissing me off, just consider what you’re doing to an average user. Like it or not, there’s a lesson here. In the long run, your behavior will cost you – big time.”

Update – June 21,2010: Immunet Protect is a highly responsible company which listens to its community of users. And, based on feedback received, the company has chosen to remove the Ask toolbar from the application installer as a recent posting (shown below), on the community site clearly indicates.

“Now that our release is out, we’ve had a moment to sit back and reflect on the feedback we’ve gotten from our community. Some of the feedback we received was clear that our implementation of a build with the ASK toolbar gave some people a degree of discomfort.

As a result we’ve released a new build – Version 2.0.11.4. This new build fixes some outstanding UI issues and completely removes the ASK toolbar. In the next couple of weeks we’ll discuss this issue with our Community to review our next steps.”

Kudos to Immunet Protect, for taking this responsible position that other companies should learn from, and emulate.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Cloud Computing Applications, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Internet Protection, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Immunet Protect – A Free Community Based Cloud Antimalware Application

image I have a number of computers; not all of which face the Internet, but those that do, are protected from compromise by a layered (or stacked), security approach.

Here’s an example of a layered security approach – one that I use on my principal home machine. The following applications are stacked on this machine, in order to cover any potential gaps in security coverage:

I should add, I use two additional free security applications, SuperAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, as secondary scanners on a weekly basis, as an added precaution.

Nothing is static though, when it comes to ensuring that my machines continue to be protected in the “real” Internet world. A world which is generally a much more demanding world, than that experienced by an average computer user.

Since I operate in this real world – not a test tube environment, I expect my antimalware applications to pass “real world” testing – not “test tube” testing, before relying on them for protection.

For this reason, when I test anti-malware applications, it often takes considerable time in order to get to the heart of the matter – does an application work in “my real Internet world?”

Arguable, the majority of available antimalware applications continue to rely on well established technologies. You could, if you like, replace “well established”, with “old”, or, some might say – “outdated”.

Since most viruses, worms, Trojans and other types of Internet threats only last 24 hours, how do security applications that rely on a definition database to identify malware files (most anti-malware applications), keep up with this onslaught? The simple answer is; they don’t.

Contrast this, with new and emerging security technologies, particularly Cloud based antimalware applications.

I was recently introduced to a new Cloud based antimalware solution,  Immunet Protect, which I have since come to rely on, and have now added to my layered security approach.

Immunet Protect, despite the fact it is Beta (a new enhanced final version is scheduled for release at the end of May which will include active scanning), is a community based antimalware solution which makes it just a little bit different – but in a highly positive way. If you’re familiar with the Browser protection application WOT (Web of Trust), then you have a sense of “community based” applications.

In real time, Immunet Protect keeps track of the state of security in the collective community (network), and should a member of the network (the community), encounter malware, you (as a member of the protected community), are instantly protected against the threat.

Or, as the developer puts it  –  “Every time someone in this collective community encounters a threat, everyone else in the community gains protection from that same threat – in real time.”

A rather more impressive security solution than you having to wait for a malware definition database update. An update that may take several days. Days in which you are effectively open to infection.

Nevertheless, Immunet Protect has been developed to work in conjunction with the most popular antimalware solutions, for added protection. A list of compatible antimalware solutions follows, later in this article.

Installation was straightforward and ran without complication, as the following screen capture indicates.

Immediately following installation you may choose to run a “Flash Scan”, which probes running process, and load point process, for contamination.

Having the ability to share Immunet Protect with your Facebook and Twitter contacts, I though, was a very cool feature. After all, there is strength in increasing numbers.

Immunet 1

Setting the operating parameters (the protection settings), is, again, straightforward.Immunet 3

The following screen capture illustrates the results of my first Flash Scan. Notice that Immunet Protect tracks programs installed over a selectable time frame, and indicates the safety of the installs. As well, the total number of current threats for which protection is offered, is indicated. In this case, 12 Million, plus.

Immunet 4

The History function provides you with a database of scans completed and the results of those scan.

Immunet 5

When active, an Immunet Protect icon (far left), sits in the Taskbar as the following screen capture shows. In this screen capture you can also see my primary security solutions are active and responsive.

Immunet 6

I must admit, I feel an added sense of security when following boot up, Immunet Protect runs an automatic Flash Scan.

Finally, there is virtually no draw against system resources while running Immunet Protect, on a dual core Windows 7 test platform.

Should you consider installing, and running, a Cloud Antivirus as supplementary antimalware protection?

If you are uncertain, then consider this:

The Internet is an uncertain world at the best of times

Cybercriminals design specific malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required.

No single security application is capable (nor should we expect a single application to be capable), of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist, in protection capabilities, in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps.

A cloud based protective solution, in this case Immunet Protect, is a major step in shoring up any weaknesses, or gaps, and significantly increase your overall ability to detect malware.

Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for lack of experience, and intuitiveness, when surfing the Internet. So, I’ll repeat what I have said here, many times – “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals.”

The following Anti-Virus packages have been tested to work alongside the Immunet Protect beta. Immunet Protect should be able to install alongside these packages and significantly increase your overall ability to detect viruses.

AVG 8.5 (Free) (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

AVG 9 Free (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Avast! Free & Premium 4.8/5.0 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Avira 2009 Personal Free (Windows XP SP3)

Norton Anti-Virus 2008 (Windows XP SP2)

Norton Anti-Virus 2009 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

Norton Internet Security 2008 (Windows XP SP2)

Norton Internet Security 2009 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

Norton Internet Security 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Norton 360 2009 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

Norton 360 2010 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Mcafee Security Center 9.3 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista)

Mcafee Security Center 2009 (Windows XP SP2)

Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Trend AntiVirus 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Trend AntiVirus + AntiSpyware 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Trend Virus Buster 2010 Vista (Japanese Marketplace) (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

K7 Total Security 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

System requirements: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or later, Vista (32-bit and 64 bit), Seven (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: Developer’s site (IMMUNET)

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP, WOT (Web of Trust)

Take Control of Your Home Page With Symbaloo

Popular guest writer Rick Robinette, has a knack for finding great free applications – applications that make the Internet experience smoother and more interesting. Read what Rick has to say about his most recent find – Symbaloo.

imageI don’t know what it is, but I have an obsession for program launchers and web launchers. I guess it comes from my past experience as an IT Manager where I found out early on that customizing an end users PC with shortcut toolbar menus to their apps, saved them and me a whole lot of headaches.

Even today, I find myself testing various launchers to see if I can make my PC and internet experience all that more efficient and easier. This is where Symbaloo comes in…

Symbaloo is an online cloud app that is designed to make your web experience more accessible. From my experience I have found that the everyday home computer user is a big creature of habit and will usually visit the same web sites over and over using their browser bookmarks or favorites.

Occasionally, this creature of habit will stray from the comfort zone and visit other places. If you are one of those creatures of habit, then Symbaloo will make your life a whole lot easier.

Symbaloo allows you to customize your very own start page (or home page) that tiles your favorites, rss feeds, etc… in the form of icons, on one page. You can even upload and use your own icons if you desire.

If you are familiar with “speed dial” in the Opera and in the Firefox browser (as an extension), then you will relate to Symbaloo. Only difference is that Symbaloo is much more attractive (and configurable) AND can be accessed from any PC where there is internet access.

For example, below is a small screenshot of my Symbaloo desktop page (that is still under construction).  When I launch my browser (Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer), this page is the first page I see. From my Symbaloo desktop page I can easily check all of my email accounts, my blog, perform searches, etc…

image

Another cool factor to Symbaloo is that you can make additional sub pages, that are conveniently tabbed across the top of Symbaloo. For example, I am currently working on a second page that will contain RSS feeds to everyone that is on the What’s On My PC blogroll.

image

There is a little bit of a learning curve to using Symbaloo, but once you get it down you will not regret it.  One area where I experienced brain lock was on how to edit, delete, or move/copy the tiles.  What you do is drag the tile to the middle of the tiled area (in the white) and it will automatically provide you with options to perform those tasks.

If you are a Firefox user, there is a Symbaloo Bookmarker browser extension that will allow you to rapidly (and automatically) bookmark sites to your Symbaloo desktop.

The only way to give this a try is to visit Symbaloo and play around with it.  Symbaloo is currently in beta; but, don’t let that stop you.  It has worked flawlessly for me. If you like it, sign up for a FREE account and start customizing your very own personalized internet launching point.

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

Why not pay a visit to Rick’s site at What’s On My PC. Like me, you’re sure to become a frequent visitor.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, Desktop Applications, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Guest Writers, Recommended Web Sites, Windows Tips and Tools

Free CNET TechTracker – Automatic Application Updater

image Almost all of your installed applications will offer to check for updates automatically. In fact, many applications have the annoying habit, on installation, of defaulting to this configuration.

Personally, I automatically turn this feature “off”. I just don’t want applications phoning home without my permission. It’s not because I don’t trust the developers…..well actually, it is because I don’t trust the majority of developers. Bill’s Internet paranoia in action once again, I guess. LOL.

Keeping applications up to date though, when automatic updates are turned off, can be a hit and miss affair. But there are solutions, and CNET’s free TechTracker application is one such solution. TechTracker is a Cloud based application which will detect, and download, updates for all of your installed software.

Once you have setup a free CNET account, TechTracker will query it’s own huge database after auditing your PC’s applications, to determine which local programs can be updated.

Updating installed applications is not just a question of increased functionality in the updated version, but more importantly, ensuring that any installed application which contains a vulnerability is updated in order to reduce your exposure to malware.

The following graphic illustrates a scan I did recently, which returned a report (the report is hosted on CNET’s site), indicating a number of applications which could be updated.

TechTracker

I choose to update CurrPorts, a free port checker which I use to continuously track my ports while I’m connected to the Internet. The graphic below indicates a successful download.

TechTracker 2

TechTracker 3

Setting the scan frequency with TechTracker couldn’t be easier, and you can choose, manual, every 4 hours (a little excessive I think), daily, weekly (which seems appropriate), or monthly.

I’ve just started testing this application, but I’m inclined to give it a tentative “thumbs up”. Any application that will make my computing experience just a little easier is a welcome addition.

System requirements: Windows (all), Mac OS X 10.5 Intel, Mac OS X 10.5 PPC.

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Cloud Computing Applications, Computer Audit Applications, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Recommended Web Sites, Software, Windows Tips and Tools