Tag Archives: CNET

Take Your Modified Application Installer And Shove It!

imageModified application installers – a good thing that allows a user to select a bevy of additional software (browser toolbars, homepage alterations ……..) or, just one more example of enterprise feeding the greed machine?

A nasty comment? Too strong a sentiment, perhaps? More to the point – do I even have the right to question how a free application is packaged? Probably not – but, I can let my fingers do the talking by walkin’  – away, that is.

That being the case – it seems counterproductive to annoy me (and, other users), by insisting that I play a silly game of “uncheck the boxes”, in order to install an application. A moments inattention and, in nothing flat – the user is faced with a “gotcha”.

I’ve covered this issue previously in – We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar! so, I won’t bludgeon the question to death (well, maybe just a little), except to offer this from the previous article.

So here’s a question for “ethical” freeware providers. How many toolbars do you think an average user needs? Ten? Twenty? Thirty………….. ?

I can already hear your answer “ but the user can uncheck the appropriate boxes when installing the application”.

Sure! Unless you’re detached from the real world, you’re more than aware that a typical user does not uncheck this box. Then, over time, the user is at a loss to explain why their machine has slowed to a crawl.

Could it be because your toolbar, along with twenty others, become active at startup – ya think!!

Of all the reader comments on this article – not one was supportive of developers, or download sites, that  behave in this manner.

Instead, typical comments included the following –

“I’m with you on this; damn annoying practice and completely unnecessary, just makes us all mad as hell.”

“To me it’s just a slightly less malicious form of malware (when its not out- right malware).”

“Even free programs that I thought never would stoop to that level have added this practice. I won’t mention their names but some of them are supposed to be an A,B, C”Cleaner” to get rid of junk files, while installing a toolbar that’s a junk file. It’s disheartening.”

“I will absolutely not pay for any software from a vendor who’s tried to con me. They are no better than the other malware smugglers.”

Which brings me to CNET’s download.com – until recently my preferred site to direct readers to, following an application review. But, no longer. Neither readers here, nor I, need to turn on our “scam radar” when downloading/installing, what is ostensible a freeware application.

Especially since, any number of superb download sites like MajorGeeks, FileHippo, PC World – just to name a few – offer the same service without the game playing.

The following is just one example of the “new” CNET download structure. Their little game of – Let’s fuel the insatiable need for greed. 

I should point out; this new structure has raised the ire of more than a few developers who have been outraged by CNETs modification of their install package – without permission.



As bad as this is – at least in my view – that’s mild compared to the experience I had yesterday while installing the open source application GimpShop, a modified version of the popular open source application – GIMPGNU Image Manipulation Program.

There’s no suggestion here that GimpShop.com attempts, in any way, to mislead potential users. In fact, they’re upfront about their modified installer. Provided, that is, the potential user reads the “fine print”  on the site.

Follow along with the modified install process and then, you decide if this process is over the edge – or, if it fits within your comfort zone.


Round one – Yahoo!


Round two – mysearch.


Round three – Norton.


Round four – WeatherBug.


Round five – let’s dig a little deeper.


I checked out the More Information link which opened a browser window as shown below. Thank you WOT (The WOT Browser add-on shows you which websites you can trust based on millions of users’ experiences –  easy-to-use, fast and completely free.)


WOT’s report –


Despite all this – I did, in fact, complete the installation so that I could test the applications capabilities in handling the following photo of my Grandfather’s 1919 enlistment in the British Army – which was dug up by my nephew Brian Mullins, in the British National Achieves. The application failed to meet my expectations.

Untouched original photo – possible the most artifact laden photo I’ve ever worked on.


PhotoShop retouch.


This was a pretty round about way to link back to my nephew’s Philadelphia based technology company, I’ll admit. But hey, he’s family.   Smile


Filed under downloads, Opinion, Point of View

Get uRexsoft DVD Ripper Platinum (Win) For Free

imageAnother month, another DVD ripper you’ve probably never heard of. Even so – from now until Sept. 30, this $35 program is absolutely free. And it works!

Best of all, and as opposed to so many of this type of offer – there are no hoops to jump through.


Read all about this software giveaway on CNET’s Cheapskate page here.

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Filed under CD/DVD Tools, downloads, Free Full Versions, Multimedia Tools, Software, Software Giveaways, Video Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Free License Ad-Aware Pro – Today Only!

imageYesterday, I pointed out the difference between companies who are stuck in a Twentieth Century marketing mode, versus those companies who “get it”, and who understand marketing in the Twenty First Century.

I’m referring to mature software developers who focus on the big picture, and create opportunities for significant numbers of users to benefit from giveaways. Not 5 or 10 free licenses, as companies who are stuck in the past continue to do.

The developers of the highly regarded anti-malware application Ad-Aware, for example, have joined forces with CNET and are giving away (for one day only), a one year license for one of their flagship products, Ad-Aware Pro.

The only restriction on this giveaway is – you must signup for any one of CNET’s newsletters since the free offer is restricted to CNET members. This really isn’t overly onerous, since CNET’s newsletter are some of the most interesting and informative available. In point of fact, I subscribe to 10+ CNET newsletters.

The following screen captures will give you an idea of the process involved in getting your free license for this noteworthy anti-malware application. The process is similar to buying a product from a merchant site. But, no money changes hands.

Click on any graphic to expand to its original size.





Downloading from both CNET and Ad-Aware directly, was extremely slooow. My normal download speed is 1.7 MB/sec, so the download speed shown in the following screen capture are absolutely unacceptable.

Yes, it may be true that the servers are inordinately busy due to the free offer, but with a little planning, this could have been avoided. I’m not whining here, but good business practices dictate that contingency plans should be in place to deal with the unexpected. Hell, that’s Business 101.


Ad-Aware Gives You the Power To…

  • Shop, bank, and make travel arrangements online
    Ad-Aware actively shields you from the latest cyber threats, including virus, spyware, password stealers, keyloggers, trojans, dialers, and other potential identity thieves.
  • Stay safe on social networking sites
    Ad-Aware keeps your passwords and personal information safe to make sure you can socialize freely, without having to worry about dangerous intrusions and prying eyes.
  • Download photos, music, and other files with confidence
    Download Guard and Ad-Aware’s behavior-based detection finds suspicious files and threats before they integrate into your PC and attack your personal information.
  • Control your privacy
    Erase tracks left behind while surfing the Web, on browsers such as Internet Explorer, Opera, and Firefox, in one easy click.
  • Safeguard your secure documents
    Ad-Aware actively shields you and your business from deceptive applications and cyber attacks.
  • Enhance computer performance
    Conserve resources and reduce downtime by using automated scans to identify and remove malicious applications that eat up memory.
  • Get Peace of Mind
    Ad-Aware cleans and restores your system after an attack to keep your PC running as new.

To take advantage of this limited time offer go to: the offer page.

Note: This offer is good until December 28, 2010, at 6 a.m. PT.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antimalware Suites, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Full Versions, Giveaways, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Software, Software Giveaways, Windows Tips and Tools

Update Your Applications With CNET TechTracker

Despite the reality, that critical vulnerabilities continue to be discovered in popular software applications, virtually on a daily basis, very few computer users monitor their system for insecure software installations.

In fact, according to recent statistics from Secunia, the rate of patching and updating compliance this year, is even less than in previous years. Nothing like going out of the way to help a cyber criminal – as if they need any help!

Experienced users, on the other hand, are unlikely to fall behind in ensuring their systems are patched, and it’s improbable (I hope), that they have insecure programs running on their machines.

So, what makes experienced users different from typical users in this critical area? There’s no great mystery – it’s pretty simple really.

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

CNET’s TechTracker is one of these free services designed to scan a user’s computer to seek out outdated installed applications, and then provide the mechanism to automate updating of outdated software.

According to CNET, their software catalog accesses over 80,000 software titles, making the database “the most comprehensive and trusted database of software products and updates in the world.”

The following screen capture  shows the results (in the Taskbar), of my first scan on an outdated test system.


The full report is fairly comprehensive, and shows both outdated and up to date applications. In the following screen capture, I’ve focused on those applications that are out of date.

Updating the out of date applications was easy. A simple click on the “download now” button, gets things underway.

I’d like to see a “download them all” button, or something similar, built into this application. Not very hard to do, I don’t think.


A very cool feature included in TechTracker is setting a preference to receive installed software update notification by email.


System requirements: Windows XP, or newer.

Browsers: Firefox 3+, Internet Explorer 7+, Safari 3+, Chrome current version.

Download at: CNET (registration required).

Similar applications reviewed here:

Secunia Personal Software Inspector

FileHippo Update Checker

It’s important to understand that all software of this type may well have shortcomings of one type, or another. For example, this application may 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.

If you found this article useful, 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.


Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Cloud Computing Applications, Computer Audit Applications, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free PDF to Word Converter Is A Scam!

image When is free, not free?

How about if you have to answer this question: 881 – (221 – (329 – 146) x 559)= ? or this question (274 – 332) – (34 x 504 – 813) = ? or……………. every time (after the fifth time, or so), you want to use the “free” application? But keep reading – all is not as it seems.

Normally, (but not always), when I recommend a piece of software I’ve tested it for a minimum of thirty days – banging it, slamming it, twisting it and turning it; all in an attempt to break it.

Some time ago, I downloaded Free PDF to Word Doc Converter (through Download.com), for testing. Since many developers choose to list their products features in this format, a PDF converter is the type of application that gets a workout around here.

The application I normally use for PDF conversion is, Nuance’s PDF Converter Professional 7. Average users however, are not likely to spent the hundred bucks for this application.

So, by the time I got around to using Free PDF to Word Doc Converter, for the fifth time, or so, the following screen appeared when I pushed the “convert” button.


My first response was annoyance. But, since this was part of testing the application, I went along with it.


After getting the FREE code and entering it in the appropriate box, the following warning appeared.


My first thought was – I made a mistake in the math. But that couldn’t be right since I actually got the code, and not an “incorrect answer” response. As well, while many people do crossword puzzles to keep their mind sharp, I work algebraic solutions every day, for the same purpose. I don’t normally make mistakes in basic math. But….

To be fair to the developer, I repeated this frustration process ten times. It turns out, the developer is an outright liar. This process is a scam – there is no way (despite inserting the correct code), to actually get free registration.

By this time I was pretty annoyed, so I dug into this app, and the developer, a little further. Additional investigation of the developer’s site showed that Norton DNS has now blocked this site, and with good reason. According to Norton – W32.Spybot.Worm, is imbedded in the site.


So, not only is the developer a liar, he’s a cyber criminal hosting a malware site.

Despite this, Download.com continues to host this application. Albeit, on their own servers. I’m very disappointed that CNET would even consider hosting this piece of crap. Shame on you CNET – you’re supposed to be better than this!

If you need a free PDF reader/convertor that actually works, then checkout Nuance PDF Reader (registration required). The PDF conversion function, is a cloud based service.

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Filed under Bill's Rants, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Norton, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Dangers – Download Sites Are Not All Equal

malware 5 Regular readers on this site are aware, that virtually all downloads I recommend, are hosted on CNET’s (download.com), site. There is good reason for this – CNET scrupulously audits hosted downloads, to ensure they are not contaminated by malware.

The same cannot be said for many other download sites.  As a result, downloading can be extremely risky, especially for unaware users.

Ransomware is a particularly vicious form of malware which often piggybacks on what appears to be legitimate software. In most instances ransomeware encrypts the victim’s files, after which the cyber-criminal demands a ransom to decrypt the kidnapped files.

Security researchers at CA, one of the world’s largest IT management software providers, have discovered a new piece of ransomware that blocks an infected computer from connecting to the Internet. On payment of a fee (to be paid by SMS), the victim’s machine will be unlocked.

This new piece of ransomeware uses the uFast Download Manager application download, as an entry point, to infect victims computers. Following installation, the victim is presented with the following screen:


(Graphic courtesy of CA)

The following is a rough English translation:

Internet access is blocked due to violation of the license agreement schedules of uFast Download Manager

You must activate your copy

Get a registration code by sending an SMS with the following code fw0004199 to number 7122

In response you will receive an activation message.

Enter the activation message received from the SMS response  ________

Don’t relax your guard simply because this malware seems to be currently focused on Russia. This type of attack knows no borders. Ransomeware attacks seem to be escalating.

If you should become infected by this Trojan your best course of action, assuming your installed malware scanners cannot remove the infection, is to take advantage of the multiple online scanners offered by the major anti-malware software developers.

For a review and list of online malware scanners please read “Free Online Spyware/Virus Scanners – Multiply Your Protection”, on this site.

Note: Download managers are one of the most popular applications offered for download on the Internet, as the following graphic of a Google search indicates – 24,600,000 returned links.

The Browser security application WOT, indicates, that on this page, half of these links are unsafe, or require caution.

Download managers

Regular readers are familiar with the following security precautions – but they bear repeating.

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

Don’t store critical data on the system partition

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Download ONLY from well established sites, or sites that are known to you

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

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

Disable scripting features in email programs

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

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer

Install a personal firewall on the computer

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

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

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Filed under Browser add-ons, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Ransomware, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

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.


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

The Internet Super Highway – Are You Licensed to Drive?

Car drivers must be educated and licensed in order to drive a car. This legal requirement of course, does not stop drunk drivers from getting into a car and killing someone. And it certainly does not eliminate our exposure to the speeders, tailgaters, and the road ragers that seem to plague our highways. Licensing then, doesn’t seem to eliminate the risks we face on the road.

So would requiring a license to use the Internet make it a safer place for all of us? Would requiring a license from the Department of Computer Literacy, protect us from the ever increasing exposure we all face to Trojans, Spyware, Virus’, Phishing Scams, Identity Theft, ….. the list goes on.

I’m being facetious of course. Unfortunately however, these dangers on the Internet are not, in a sense, unlike the dangers and risks we face while driving a car on our streets and highways.

Unlike the need to be educated and practiced, in order to qualify for a driver’s license; to access the Internet all that is required is a modem attached to a computer. There’s no need to prove qualifications. There’s no need to prove an awareness of the very real dangers that the Internet presents.

Being involved in computer security, I am amazed and frankly frustrated, at the lack of knowledge exhibited by many typical computer users, and most importantly, the lack of knowledge concerning the need to secure their machines against the ever increasing risks previously noted, on the Internet. I’m not talking about unintelligent people here. I am talking about people who are intelligent in every other aspect of life, but who view computers like cavemen who saw fire for the first time.

The problem, it seems, is multifaceted. Part of the problem, in my view, is simply fear. People do not understand computers, so they are afraid of them in a sense. Secondly, people generally, are simply not interested in learning about computers sufficiently to make the fear go away. The question is, of course, should they need to know anything other than how to turn on a computer and a minimum knowledge of the applications they use? Well maybe not.

Many computer experts agree that it is primarily flawed computer software and not just inadequate user knowledge that is the biggest contributor to the proliferation of unsecured computer systems and cyber-crime, on the Internet.

It seems to me then, what is needed as a good first step, are machines that are designed with outwardly simple, but internally sophisticated operating systems, secure and easy to use for the majority of users; where no user interaction is required to maintain the security of the system.

We now live in the age of the “Interconnectedness of All Things” in which we are beginning to see the development and availability of large numbers of Internet connected devices. There is no doubt that this will lend new strength to computer-aided crime and in this new political environment we now live in, perhaps even terrorists.

Unless we develop a rational approach to the underlying security issues surrounding the Internet, and insist software companies’ stop rushing out new products with little regard for security, hackers will continue to flourish and successful attacks on computers over the internet will continue to proliferate.

There are steps that you can take to decrease the likelihood you will be the victim of a successful attack on your computer. If you reduce your exposure to successful attacks on your machine, then downstream you are helping to protect my machine and those of others.

The following is a brief guide to the basic security issues you should be aware of on the Internet, followed by a guide to some of the steps you can take to secure your computer for Internet usage.

Security risks on the Internet you need to be aware of.

  • Trojan horse programs
  • Back door and remote administration programs
  • Denial of service
  • Being an intermediary for another attack
  • Unprotected Window shares
  • Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Email spoofing
  • Email-borne viruses
  • Hidden file extensions
  • Chat clients
  • Packet sniffing

Security Checklist: Actions you can take to protect your computer system.

  • Don’t open unknown email attachments
  • Don’t run programs of unknown origin
  • Disable hidden filename extensions
  • Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched
  • Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use
  • Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible
  • Disable scripting features in email programs
  • Make regular backups of critical data
  • Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised
  • Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.
  • Install a personal firewall on the computer.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.
  • Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

The following tutorials are offered free of charge on CNET, one of the most widely respected sites on the Internet. If you are unfamiliar with basic computer security issues, I highly recommend that you visit this site.

Quick Tutorials

In these interactive slideshows, CNET’s experts take you step by step through PC security best practices.

Online Courses

Join the discussion about spam, spyware and virus control with others in free online classrooms.

Quick Tips


Filed under Email, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Banking, Online Safety, Phishing, Privacy, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Cyber Crime – Do We Need Another Study to Reinforce the Reality?

Are you the type of person who is convinced that surveys accurately depict the reality behind the analyzes of the information gathered, or are you like me, thoroughly fed up with the type of pseudo surveys that we seem to be exposed to more and more, and that simply confirm the obvious.

For example, in the past week alone we have been exposed to surveys that purportedly prove that alcohol can:

Reduce the effects of dementia in the elderly

Decrease the incidence of heart disease

Increase the incidence of breast cancer in women

The value of these types of surveys, in my view, is questionable, since they simple repackage information that we have had access to, in some cases, for years.

Now we have another questionable survey; one from the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), which states “U.S. consumers don’t understand botnets; networks of compromised computers that have become one of the major methods for attacking computer systems”.

Ron Teixeira, executive director of the NCSA, said in a statement. “Consumers’ unsecured computers play a major role in helping cyber criminals conduct cyber crimes not only on the victim’s computer, but also against others connected to the Internet.” Teixeira went on to say that it is “alarming” that people don’t know how to keep their computers secure.

I think that one would have to have been on an extended vacation on Mars, not to have an understanding that the Internet is now the playground of cyber criminals and has been for a considerable time. This survey discloses no new information of any consequence, but instead rehashes information we have been aware of for years. In fact the statements in this survey can be applied to worldwide Internet users’ and are not restricted to those in the U.S.

Trying to determine why average computer/Internet users have little knowledge of computer/Internet security, does not require one to be a profound thinker to arrive at a number of hard and undeniable conclusions.

A reader of this Blog, commenting on a previous article on this Blog “The Unsecured Internet Super Highway – Are You Licensed to Drive?“, an article which deals with these surveyed issues, summed it up particularly well when he stated, “most people still see the computer as a kind of entertainment device… Computers are for playing, chatting, and watching short clips; listening to tunes…. people don’t take internet security seriously because they don’t think of the computer as a serious device”.

He went on to write – “Some of this is related to our cultural laziness around safety and prevention. People are routinely reckless with automobiles, decline to clean out the lint catch, and mishandle loaded guns. My frustration is with government, health and educational institutions that push people to use the internet as though it were as secure and straight forward as a hard-line telephone”. A factual and precise comment, I think.

And so we arrive at the crux of this matter: No one wants to take responsibly for the abysmal state of Internet safety and security. Not governments; not software developers; and least of all Internet users’. While there may be some level of comfort, for some, in continuing to do surveys on Internet and computer safety issues; we need to stop just talking about it, stop being part of the fear campaign, and develop solutions.

All Internet users’ need to come to the realization that we all have a shared responsibility to offer mutual protection to each other, by ensuring our individual machines are not part of the problem but instead are part of the solution.

There are some obvious solutions; some draconian, some less so, but those are issues for a future article.

The following tutorials are offered free of charge on CNET, one of the most widely respected sites on the Internet. If you are unfamiliar with basic computer security issues, I highly recommend that you visit this site.

Eliminate Spyware for Free on your Windows PC

Online Courses

PC Protection 101

Combat Spam and Phishing

Combating Spyware and Adware

Quick Tips

How not to get hacked

How to use Ad-Aware

Wi-Fi security on the road

Protect your home network with your old PC

Free security software

Spyware Doctor: Speed up your start-up

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Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Living Life, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Safe Surfing, Windows Tips and Tools