Tag Archives: download.com

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.

image

image

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.

image

Round one – Yahoo!

image

Round two – mysearch.

image

Round three – Norton.

image

Round four – WeatherBug.

image

Round five – let’s dig a little deeper.

image

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.)

image

WOT’s report –

image

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.

clemence_charles_eble_military123

PhotoShop retouch.

clemence_charles_eble_military12345

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

Advertisements

26 Comments

Filed under downloads, Opinion, Point of View

Checkout CNET’s Top 20 Hot Downloads

imageMy favorite download site, by a substantial margin, is CNET’s Download.com. I trust the programs I download from this site to be free from adware, spyware, and the multitude of other malware that floats freely on the Internet.

Since CNET adheres to a strict policy of offering untainted downloads, regular readers of Tech Thoughts know, that when I review an application, if the program is available for download at Download.com, I direct interested readers there.

If you’ve ever wondered what applications make it to the top of CNET’s vast repository of software, then take a look at the top 20 downloads for the week ending July 2, 2011, listed in terms of popularity.

Here’s a look at what’s hot:

1. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011

Downloads last week: 1,149,295

2. RealPlayer

Downloads last week: 775,522

3. WinRAR (32-bit)

Downloads last week: 734,754

4. YouTube Downloader

Downloads last week: 708,205

5. Avast Free Antivirus

Downloads last week: 640,589

6. FreeZ Online TV

Downloads last week: 392,594

7. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Downloads last week: 390,689

8. TeamViewer

Downloads last week: 389,105

9. Advanced SystemCare Free

Downloads last week: 363,161

10. Camfrog Video Chat

Downloads last week: 355,868

11. Virtual DJ

Downloads last week: 316,837

12. PhotoScape

Downloads last week: 289,353

13. Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

Downloads last week: 286,598

14. Internet Download Manager

Downloads last week: 276,425

15. MyVideoConverter

Downloads last week: 274,045

16. Ad-Aware Free Internet Security

Downloads last week: 246,708

17. VLC Media Player

Downloads last week: 223,572

18. GOM Media Player

Downloads last week: 203,111

19. UMPlayer

Downloads last week: 183,894

20. CNET TechTracker

Downloads last week: 183,430

Keep in mind that an application’s popularity is not always indicative of its strength, but I’ve tested the majority of these programs, at one time or another, and found many to be every bit as good as advertised.

Additional high quality download sites that are worth investigating:

MajorGeeks

MajorGeeks is here to help you get the most out of your computer mainly by offering tools to the beginner or advanced user (hopefully you someday). Try not to be overwhelmed, just take it one step at a time. Your hosts (Jim and Tim) are both self taught, as are many of our visitors.

SourceForge

SourceForge.net is the biggest and best place to download and develop free open source software.

PCWorld

Freeware, shareware, and trialware files for your PC.

FileHippo

Freeware, demo and shareware programs to download in several categories. Also features latest updates and most popular downloads.

I’m always on the hunt for safe, clean download sites so, if you’ve got a favorite site I’d be happy to hear about it.

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.

4 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Recommended Web Sites, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Is ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 The Best Firewall For You?

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

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

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

Here’s why:

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

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

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

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

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

Fast facts:

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

What you need to know:

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

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.

17 Comments

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

Defensive Downloading – The Basics

malware 5BitDefender is currently warning,  on its Malware City site, of a fake Stuxnet removal tool which, once downloaded and installed, will wipe out the contents of the victim’s Hard Drive.

As we’ve pointed out here many times in the past – if it’s in the news, you can be sure cyber criminals are exploiting it to their advantage. So we shouldn’t be too surprised, that cyber criminals have been very successful in hijacking searches related to the Stuxnet worm.

Unfortunately, following hijacked links is the common behavior of a large percentage of unaware, undereducated, and less security conscious computer users. Is it any wonder the cyber criminals are winning the game?

At the risk of sounding insensitive it’s fair to say, that users who get victimized by the type of scheme described above, end up that way because they behave like victims.

It’s beyond dispute that download sites are not all equal and as a result, downloading can be extremely risky, especially for unaware users. It’s frustrating to realize that so many users lack this basic knowledge.

Download basics are just that – basic:

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

Preferably, download from the developer’s official site.

Regardless of origin, scan all downloads with 2 or more, security applications.

Install a Browser security add-on such as WOT, which  investigates web sites for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, phishing, and online scams.

Since “trusted” websites, are not always to be trusted, consider installing an additional layer of security by substituting your ISP provided DNS service, with a more secure alternative such as ClearCloud.

Despite the best precautions, it is still possible to become infected – so, make regular backups of critical data. If you become infected this may be your only solution.

Finally, don’t store critical data on the system partition.

Regular readers will know, that virtually all downloads recommended here, 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.

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.

5 Comments

Filed under BitDefender, Browser add-ons, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Advisories, Recommended Web Sites, Safe Surfing, Software, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

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.

image

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

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

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.

17 Comments

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 ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 – Windows 7 Compatible

image ZoneAlarm Free was the first Firewall I ever installed to a personal system, and that was back in the dark ages of 1996. It wasn’t until 2009 that I was reluctantly forced to move away from the world’s most popular free Firewall, since Windows 7 was not yet supported.

Happily, Windows 7  is now supported, and I’ve jumped at the chance to reinstall my absolute all time favorite free Firewall.

Here’s why:

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

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

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

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

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

On the reinstall it installed easily, set up quickly, and has not caused any conflicts with my machine – despite my sometimes esoteric running requirements.

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

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

Fast facts:

DefenseNet – Leverages real-time threat data from community of millions of users to detect and block the latest attacks.

Inbound Firewall Protection – Stops hackers and other intrusions by making your PC invisible online.

Outbound Firewall Protection – Blocks spyware, botnets, and other malware from sending your personal data out to the Internet.

Quiet and Automatic – Runs in the background, un-noticed and out of the way, with rare alerts.

Anti-phishing and Site Check – Toolbar blocks fraudulent websites including those that trick you into entering personal data.

Identity Guard – Provides credit scores and recovery services to secure your identity online and offline.

Works with all Antivirus – Compatible with antivirus software, such as AVG and Norton Antivirus.

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

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

Download at: Download.com

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

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

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

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.

10 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Checkout the Top 15 Hot Downloads

imageMy favorite download site, by a substantial margin, is CNET’s Download.com. I trust the programs I download from this site to be free from adware, spyware, and the multitude of other malware that floats freely on the Internet.

Since CNET adheres to a strict policy of offering untainted downloads, regular readers of Tech Thoughts are aware, that when I review an application, if the program is available for download at Download.com, I direct interested readers there.

If you’ve ever wondered what applications make it to the top of CNET’s vast repository of software, then take a look at the top 15 downloads for the week ending March 6, 2010, listed in terms of popularity.

Here’s a look at what’s hot:

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition – Protect your computer from viruses and malicious programs.

Avast Free Antivirus – Protect your PC against the latest viruses and spyware.

Advanced SystemCare Free – Protect, repair, optimize, and clean your computer in one click.

Ad-Aware Free Anti-Malware – Protect your personal home computer from malware attacks.

Avira AntiVir Personal – Free Antivirus – Detect and eliminate viruses, get free protection for home users.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – Detect and quickly remove malicious threats to your computer.

YouTube Downloader – Download YouTube videos and convert them to various formats.

WinRAR (32-bit) – Take full control over RAR and ZIP archives, along with unpacking a dozen other archive formats.

LimeWire – Share files online.

FreeZ Online TV – Receive over 500 free online channels of daily and live broadcasts from around the world.

Orbit Downloader – Download videos and music in one click.

TeamViewer – Share your desktop with another person via the Web.

Camfrog Video Chat – Join live-video chat rooms from around the world.

Foxit Reader – View, print, and convert your PDF files.

Glary Utilities – Fix, speed up, maintain, and protect your PC.

As I’ve said here in the past, an application’s popularity is not always indicative of its strength, but I’ve tested the majority of these programs, at one time or another, and found them to be every bit as good as advertised. They belong on this list.

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Communication, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Productivity Software, Remote Tech Support, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Utilities, Uninstall Tools, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP