Tag Archives: programs

WinPatrol Plus – ONLY $5 This Weekend

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

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

There are a host of additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security toolbox.

From the site:

Instead of a $29.95 upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS this weekend upgrading will only for $5. Like our everyday pricing you can use your single license on every personal computer you own and use it for your lifetime including any new versions we release.

For our friends in Europe $5 USD currently converts to about €3.73 so it’s even a better deal. $25 USD converts to about €18.7 at least by today’s rate.

The sale starts midnight, Friday morning EST time zone.

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WinPatrol Overview:

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

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

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

Selecting options is “click the box” simple.

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

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

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WinPatrol Free – Feature Chart

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Additional Features in WinPatrol Plus

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

Download WinPatrol Free at: BillP Studios

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

From the site:

Instead of a $29.95 upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS this weekend upgrading will only for $5. Like our everyday pricing you can use your single license on every personal computer you own and use it for your lifetime including any new versions we release.

For our friends in Europe $5 USD currently converts to about €3.73 so it’s even a better deal. $25 USD converts to about €18.7 at least by today’s rate.

Download WinPatrol Plus at: BillP Studios

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.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, HIPS, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Utilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selecting options is “click the box” simple.

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

image

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

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WinPatrol Free – Feature Chart

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Additional Features in WinPatrol Plus

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

Download WinPatrol Free at: BillP Studios

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

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

WinPatrol Plus lifetime licenses are available as follows:

WinPatrol PLUS $29.95

WinPatrol PLUS Family Pack $49.95

Download WinPatrol Plus at: BillP Studios

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

Free StartUp Tuner 2 – Fixes Slow Computer Boot Time

image Is Windows boot time starting to get you down? Do you sometimes feel as if you could go and make a coffee while waiting for Windows to start? Let me tell you, if you feel that way, you’re not alone – it can happen to all of us.

You’ll often find, after installing a new application, that it automatically triggers an auto-start command on system start up.

That means, each time your computer is booted, this type of presumptive program is started with Windows, which is unlikely to be your intent, and in many cases is not needed. For example, iTunes is one of those programs that has this nasty habit.

As a result of this program behavior, your start sequence can become considerably longer, system resources can be ravaged, and manually shutting down these unnecessary startups can be frustrating, and time consuming.

The following is a perfect example of how out of control these presumptive  auto-start applications can become.

Recently, a friend asked me for advice on his sister’s computer that was slow at startup, and even worse, was slow in normal operation. It was easy to see why. The computer was loading 26 applications on startup, which then continued to run in the background, eating up system resources.

There are a number of manual methods available to deactivate these very irritating applications from auto starting, but a great free application from Ashampoo does the job quickly, cleanly, and with no fuss.

StartUp Tuner 2 lists all auto-start entries and allows you to individually delete or deactivate those entries. If you turn off all of the unnecessary entries (be sure they are not necessary), Windows will boot faster; in many cases considerably faster.

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Bonus features:

StartUp Tuner 2 can do more than just this though. The tool can list all Windows services by name and it allows you to activate, or deactivate them, with the click of the mouse.

The application shows all installed Windows programs, but it builds its lists more quickly than the control panel software module. You can then uninstall programs that are no longer required, including program entries that the native Windows uninstaller generally leaves untouched.

Many Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) are useful, but others simply take up space on the Hard Drive and serve no useful purpose. StartUp Tuner 2 lists all of them, and allows you to delete, or deactivate them, if you determine you longer need them.

The application automatically generates a backup of the changes that you have made, giving you the opportunity to reverse any changes.

StartUp Tuner 2 can be used free for 10 days. After that time, free online registration is required. You will receive an activation code which will convert the test version of the program into the full version.

Ashampoo loves to remind you of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing on StartUp Tuner 2.

Personally, I like to stay in the loop on new software developments, so I don’t object to receiving emails soliciting my business for new applications. One of the benefits of registering with Ashampoo is – they often give away full versions of their apps, just prior to the release of a new version.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista. Win 7 (no x64 support).

Download at: Developer’s site

Note: Full administrative rights are required to install the program. After it has been installed it can be used with any user account.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Why It’s Important For Adults To Become Educated In The IT Field

Guest writer Lisa Darning takes a look at the need for the older workforce to stay current, in an ever changing technology landscape.

imageEvery day we are more and more submerged in the technological world. It is ever growing and changing, and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. The more that technology becomes an everyday staple of life, the more important it is for us to be knowledgeable in the field.

Communication is done through email, text, social networks and IM. Some offices are based entirely on the Internet, and this makes for a new breed of employees and employers.

The older you are, the more foreign this new wave of knowledge may seem, and getting in the job market may seem frightening and overwhelming. The good news is, there is no reason to feel alarmed; you, just as the younger generation, are more than capable of handling technology and using it to your advantage.

There are hundreds of online, and brick and mortar schools, that offer programs in IT education. The availability of information and training programs make jumping on board this technological train increasingly easy.

The importance of being educated in technology is growing right alongside the industry. As an older individual having some knowledge puts you in the same running for jobs as those who grew up with a technological force field.

Earning an education in IT may be for your own general knowledge; may be to climb the corporate ladder, or even to get started at a new career. Whatever your reasons, there are tons of advantages to taking steps toward a continued IT education.

Advantages of Having Knowledge in the IT Field

The biggest advantage, in my eyes, is having the same skills as younger individuals. To be competitive when entering into a new job market, or climbing the ladder at your current employer, having IT experience makes it so much easier.

When it is time for promotion or hiring, there are plenty of people who are passed over because of out-dated skills, This can be avoided with a little extra focus on the technological aspects of your job.

Taking a little extra time to teach yourself  new programs for work, new ways to market your company and yourself, taking a general computer course, or even learning the ways of social interaction through the Internet, can give you a leg up on the competition.

Equipping yourself with knowledge is so important. Not only for the growing world of technology, but for our growing world in general. The saying “knowledge is power” holds so much truth, and this is another advantage to furthering your education, in any field.

The mind is an amazing thing and can take you many places in life, exercising this great human tool is not only rewarding but can produce many successes. A curiosity can turn into a career with the right education. Employers today, technology aside, are looking for credentials. There aren’t many companies who will hire someone without an education, making it so much more important for adults to take steps in furthering their educations.

The more the technological world grows and changes, the more the need for technology minded individuals. There are no boundaries to learning and furthering you education, and it can earn you many different successes, whether they be business or personal. People have the option of getting a degree at an online university.

The world of technology is showing no signs of slowing and we are responsible for keeping up – look at it as a challenge, and keep it interesting.

Lisa Darning is a twenty something Internet consultant, and freelance writer. She has two degrees – marketing and creative writing. She loves traveling the world, watching sports, golfing and supporting the arts. In her free time, she designs jewelry.

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Filed under Education, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Older Adult Computer Users, Point of View

Download Free Smart Close – Close Applications The Smart Way

imageSmartClose, a free utility that should, in my view, come pre-installed with Windows, can close all running programs which can interrupt high-end tasks. Tasks like defragmenting a Hard Drive, recovering files, shredding free disk space, burning CD/DVDs, or playing processor intensive games where fps is a critical issue.

If you’re like me, and you like to test drive new software, then you know that virtually all application installers recommend closing all running applications to minimize conflicts, and to avoid replacing in-use files.

Closing running applications manually can often be time consuming, particularly if you are a power user with 5 or 6 programs running at the same time. To raise the frustration quotient, once you have closed all these programs, you then have to re-launch each closed application just to recover where you were.

SmartClose has been developed to eliminate this frustration, by automatically closing all running programs, disabling the screen saver, and shutting down running processes that can disrupt your new task.

Running SmartClose, with its five-icon interface, tool-tips, and wizards, is dead simple. When your task has been completed, restoring the applications you closed is straightforward, since SmartClose saves a system snapshot which can easily restore the machines previous condition.

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Power users especially, will be glad they have this neat little application in their utility toolbox.

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Fast facts:

Two wizards – the Close Programs wizard, for closing all the programs, and the Restore wizard, to restore a system snapshot. Both provide an intuitive and clear interface, and assist you step by step.

Thanks to its SmartClose-technology, most programs can be properly closed, so that the program can still save its settings and return memory and resources to the system.

In the rare cases that a program can’t be properly closed, SmartClose can use SmartKill to kill the program. Still, all the memory and resources used by the program will be freed.

If you don’t want a program to be closed or killed by SmartClose, you can add it to a list of Protected Programs.

Besides closing programs, SmartClose also closes Explorer and Internet Explorer windows and saves their current location, so they can be restored properly later.

Disables and restores the screen saver.

SmartClose stops and restarts Windows services that can interrupt other processes, such as the Task Scheduler.

And finally, you get all of these features for free. SmartClose is 100% freeware without any nag screens, trial periods, ads, spyware etc.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, NT, XP, Windows Server 2008

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download A Bagful of Free Microsoft Software

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Surprisingly, many computer users are not aware that Microsoft offers literally hundreds of free applications. These free applications range from highly specialized system applications, down to the type of applications average users can make good use of on a daily basis.

The following is just a small sampling of these free applications, broken down by category.

Security:

Microsoft Security Essentials

imageMicrosoft Security Essentials, which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection, all under one roof, was released by Microsoft last year as a free  replacement application for Windows Live OneCare.

Microsoft Security Essentials is easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. And, the interface is positively simple offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan.

Download at: Microsoft

RootkitRevealer v1.71

imageRootkitRevealer is an advanced rootkit detection utility. It runs on Windows NT 4 and higher and its output lists Registry and file system API discrepancies that may indicate the presence of a user-mode or kernel-mode rootkit. RootkitRevealer successfully detects many persistent rootkits including AFX, Vanquish and HackerDefender.

Download at: Microsoft

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

imageTo help you assess the overall state of security on your computer, Microsoft provides a free scanning tool – Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA), which will scan your system and provide you with a report on your computer’s security, based on Microsoft security recommendations.

MBSA includes both a graphical and a command line interface that can perform local or remote scans, of Microsoft Windows systems.

Download at: Microsoft

Utilities:

SyncToy 2.1

SyncToy 5 SyncToy 2.1 is a free application that synchronizes files and folders between locations. Typical uses include sharing files, such as photos, with other computers and creating backup copies of files and folders.

SyncToy can manage multiple sets of folders at the same time; it can combine files from two folders in one case, and mimic renames and deletes in another case. Unlike other applications, SyncToy actually keeps track of renames to files and will make sure those changes get carried over to the synchronized folder.

Download at: Microsoft

Process Explorer

imageFind out what files, registry keys and other objects processes have open, which DLLs they have loaded, and more. This uniquely powerful utility will even show you who owns each process.

Download at: Microsoft

Autoruns

imageSee what programs are configured to startup automatically when your system boots and you login. Autoruns also shows you the full list of Registry and file locations where applications can configure auto-start settings.

Download at: Microsoft

File Storage

Windows Live SkyDrive – 25 GB of free online storage

imageStore, access, and share thousands of documents, photos, and Microsoft Office files on Windows Live SkyDrive. SkyDrive password-protects your files so you control who has access to them.

Download at: Microsoft

Money Management

Office Accounting Express 2009

image Even if you don’t run an office, you can still use this terrific application to managing your credit cards, and bank accounts, and if you have a PayPal account, you’ll find it easier to complete transactions using Office Accounting Express.

If, on the other hand you do run a small business, you’ll find increased functionality within this program, including  the ability to handle payroll, vendors,  invoices, quotes, cash sales, and more.

Note: This application is no longer available directly from Microsoft. Download is still available at the link below.

Download at: Download.com

Web Development

Visual Studio 2010 Express

image Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition is an incredibly functional and easy-to-use free application that will output a unique, custom designed website, to promote your club, hobby or business, or to put your favorite family/holiday photos online.

It couldn’t be easier. As Microsoft says – “Get started quickly by becoming familiar with the Visual Web Developer environment with the Introduction to Visual Web Developer 2008 video”.

If you are an amateur, or even if you are a proficient web site developer, Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition, will surprise you with the professional quality that you can achieve with this application.

Download at: Microsoft

System Virtualization

Virtual PC 2007

image Regular readers of this site are probably familiar with the benefits of running in a virtual environment (a virtual machine acts like a standalone computer), while surfing the Internet, or while testing new software. Microsoft’s Virtual PC application allows even less technically inclined users to run in this mode, in a way that’s easy to understand, and easy to use.

Download at: Microsoft

Web Based Applications

Windows Live Essentials 2011

imageDo more with Windows on your PC with free programs for photos, movies, instant messaging, email, social networking, and more. Get it all in one simple download.

Download at: Microsoft

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Desktop Applications, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Microsoft, Software, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tips On A Layered Security Approach To Internet Safety

image Unfortunately, finding a balance between computer security and functionality can often be a question of “hit and miss”. By protecting your computer using the layered approach laid out here, you will reduce the chances of malware infections significantly without impacting convenience, and functionality, unduly.

Cybercriminals design malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required – on the one hand, and craft attacks that take advantage of unaware computer users, in which user interaction is required – on the other hand.

The second part, of this two part attack approach, can only be defeated if the computer user is aware of current Internet threats. So, knowledge and experience, are critical ingredients in the never ending, and escalating battle, against cybercriminals.

In order to defeat attacks which rely on exploiting vulnerable systems, the preferred method to do so, is the implementation of a layered security approach. Employing layered security should ensure the swift detection of malware, before any damage occurs on the targeted system.

We live in a world in which we are surrounded by “buzz words”, and it seems that I’m occasionally guilty of using buzz words in writing this Blog. Buzz words which don’t always adequately explain a point, or which interfere with a readers understanding of a concept.

This was brought home to me recently when a regular reader emailed me privately; asking that I explain layered security. As I considered this, it occurred to me that this was a very legitimate question. From a reader’s perspective – just what is “layered security”?

What is layered security?

Let’s take the “buzz” out of layered security. Layered security, in its simplest form, consists of stacking security solutions, one on top of the other, to protect a computer from current, and zero day malware attacks (malware for which there is yet, no programmed defense).

Why do you need it?

The answer is pretty simple – gap management (words that are well know to consultants). In other words, 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. Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for the lack of experience, and intuitiveness, of many computer users. So, I’ll repeat what I said earlier “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals”

A consumer layered security approach: recommendations.

Backup – While you may not think that a backup strategy forms part of a layered security approach to Internet security, it is, without exception, a most crucial part.

Consider where you would be if your layered security strategy failed. If you’ve ever lost critical data to a malware infection, no doubt you already consider it of primary importance.

Free backup utilities are readily available – see “Hard Drive Cloning is Easy with Free Easeus Disk Copy” and “Free DriveImage XML – “The Best Way to Backup Data?”, on this site.

Operating System and Application Patch Management – Again, this is an area that is often not considered as critical by many users. In a recent survey, Secunia, the Danish computer security service provider, well known for tracking vulnerabilities in software and operating systems, concluded that less than one in 50 Windows driven computers, are totally patched.

To stay ahead of the curve in this critical area consider downloading, and installing, the free Secunia Personal Software Inspector, which will constantly monitor your system for insecure software installations, notify you when an insecure application is installed, and even provide you with detailed instructions for updating the application, when available.

Firewall – Simply put,  a firewall is an application, or a hardware appliance, designed to block unauthorized access to your computer from the Internet, at the same time permitting authorized communications.

There are many free Firewalls available, but many can be intrusive and not really appropriate for casual computer users. Zone Alarm offers a very robust, uncomplicated, free Firewall, and more information is available here, “Download ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 – Windows 7 Compatible”.

Antimalware – A front line antimalware application is absolutely critical to avoid system infection. Your primary application should be supplemented by an on-demand scanner (part of the stacking approach).

There is no harm in downloading more than one antimalware application to be used as a secondary scanner. In fact, doing so can be advantageous. However, be sure NOT to allow more than one application to autostart, in order to prevent conflicts. For a list and download links to recommended free antimalware applications, including secondary scanners, see “Tech Thoughts Top 8 Free Antimalware Applications”, on this site.

Antivirus – An antivirus application is another critical component in a layered defense strategy to ensure that if a malicious program is detected, it will be stopped dead in its tracks!

Avira AntiVir Personal (see “Free Avira AntiVir Personal Protection – Get the Real Deal!” on this site), is a very effective application which offers scans for viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers and other malicious programs.

It’s simple interface provides access to a command structure, that makes it easy to repair, delete, block, rename and quarantine programs, or files.

Web Browser Security – Install a free Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite). WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Please read “An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons” on this site, which lists additional critical Browser add-ons.

System Isolation – An isolator is a security application which dynamically isolates Internet applications including Web Browsers, Chat Clients, Email Clients, and so on. Isolators, or sandbox applications, prevent damage from intrusions and malicious software: viruses, worms, spyware, key loggers etc., including disallowing rogue software from being installed. To understand this concept more thoroughly, please see “Free GeSWall Isolates You From Cybercriminals”, on this site.

Zero Day Protection – 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.

Threatfire, from PC Tools is a terrific security application which covers the vulnerability gap with respect to zero-day threats. ThreatFire blocks malware (including zero-day threats) by analyzing program behavior (heuristics), based on the theory that if it looks like a crook and acts like a crook, then it must be a crook, instead of relying only on a signature based database.

For additional information and a download link please see – “Protect Yourself Against Zero Day Internet Threats with Free ThreatFire From PC Tools”, on this site.

Unfortunately, finding a balance between security and functionality can often be difficult. By protecting your computer using the layered approach laid out here, you will reduce the chances of malware infections significantly without impacting convenience, and functionality, unduly.

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.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Internet Protection, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Hard Drive Imaging, Internet Safety Tools, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Like Pirated Software? – Have I Got A Deal For You!

image We all love pirates it seems; at least in fiction. Pirates like Long John Sliver, in Treasure Island, and Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, to name just two.

It’s easy enough, I suppose, to glamorize pirates in fiction, since they all seem to possess redeeming qualities. But in the modern age, (think Somalia), pirates have no redeeming qualities – they are simply thieves.

Pirates don’t restrict their activities to sailing the bounding main however. The vast majority of present day pirates (the software pirate), sail the the currents of the Internet – stealing and pillaging.

If you’re a software pirate you’re definitely on my shit list. Because of you, part of every dollar I spend in buying software, goes to cover the cost of of your thieving behavior.

Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments in support of software theft –

How about lowering ridiculous high pricing in the first place?

Some steal it because they can’t buy it, in which case your not going to sell it to them anyway.

Users in third world countries can’t afford to buy the software even if they wanted to.

Software vendors already put the fact that there will be piracy into the price of their products. (My point exactly – you cost ME money).

Most of these argument revolve around the cost of software – always assumed to be artificially high. Frankly, I support the argument that software pricing is often outrageous. But, is that fact a justification for being a thief?

Personally, I find the cost of new cars too high. But, that doesn’t mean I’d be justified in stealing a car from my local Toyota dealership. Why is it, stealing from software developers is seen by many, as somehow different?

Recently, I happened to come across the Seventh Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study, which made the point “for every $100 worth of legitimate software sold, an additional $75 worth of unlicensed software made its way onto the market.”

I had some difficulty with the methodology used in this study, but overall, the findings are reasonable accurate.

Selected findings from this study:

Commercial value of software theft exceeds $50 billion: the commercial value of unlicensed software put into the market in 2009 totaled $51.4 billion.

Progress on piracy held through the recession: the rate of PC software piracy dropped in nearly half (49%) of the 111 economies studied, remained the same in 34% and rose in 17%.

Piracy continues to rise on a global basis: the worldwide piracy rate increased from 41% in 2008 to 43% in 2009; largely a result of exponential growth in the PC and software markets in higher piracy, fast growing markets such as Brazil, India and China.

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So here’s the deal I mentioned in the title to this article – if you search out, or use, pirated software, in almost every case you’ll get an added bonus – malware.

My good buddy Rod, an Australian security developer executive, who generously keeps me in the loop regarding Internet threats detected by his companies through their various Internet  resources, passed on the following information, this week.

Those who are into downloading pirated anti-malware programs or dubious license keys, could be in for a nasty surprise!

“HijackThis Pro 2.0.4 Portable” on WaReZ and Torrents sites is not a Trend Micro product. You don’t have to run it to get infected … merely unpacking the archive will zap you with TrojanDownloader.Pegel.BU.

Several websites offering stolen or otherwise illegally obtained “free keys” for Kaspersky, SuperAntiSpyware and ESET programs have been poisoned with malicious iFrames in the past few days (which doesn’t say much for the intelligence of the webmasters), and the trick is spreading.

You don’t need to download anything to infect yourself … depending on which site you visit, the front page will instantly zap you with TrojanDownloader.Pegel.BR, or TrojanDownloader.Pegel.BU.

In the end, there is no justifiable reason to steal software. It is piracy, and it is a CRIME. Many commercial software applications have an open source equivalent and that’s the route to choose.

Not only will you be choosing the moral path, but you will be supporting the greatest concept in software, ever – Open Source.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Reports, Reports, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Download a Cornucopia of Freeware Applications

image If I sum totaled all the applications I’ve tested since the early 1990’s, I suspect, the number is now in the thousands. Over those years, some applications have managed to stand out, while others just vanished beneath the wave of new and more creative applications.

The applications listed below have riding out the storm of new competitors, and have developed a strong, loyal following, based on their reliability and functionality.

Take a look at the following recommended free downloads that will help you communicate, improve your photos, have some fun, and manage and protect your system.

Note: Please read the EULA of each application that you have chosen to install – it’s just common sense. To download a free tool that will help you in highlighting critical areas in a EULA, checkout “Download EULAlyzer – Let it Read the EULA for You“, on this site.

Process those words:

OpenOffice

OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages, and works on all common computers.

It stores all your data in an international open standard format, and can also read and write files from other common office software packages, including Microsoft Word.

AbiWord

AbiWord is a free, multilingual, light weight word processing program, similar to Microsoft Word. It is suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.

WordWeb

WordWeb is a one-click English thesaurus and dictionary, for Windows, that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Manipulate and correct your pics – put them online:

FastStone Image Viewer

This is one of my favorite photo applications, with good reason. It’s not just a viewer, but an image browser, converter, and an editor as well. You’ll find the interface intuitive and very easy to use.

This program is loaded with features including, renaming, cropping, color adjustments, lossless JPEG transformation, drop shadow effects, image frames, scanner support, histogram and much more.

IrfanView

With IrfanView you can fix and enhance digital photos including resizing, cropping, correcting red eye, flipping, and rotating. As well, you can perform a wide variety of image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and applying special effects such as sharpen and blur.

I have been using this neat little program (every day), for years and with each new release it just keeps getting better.

Google Picasa

Free software that helps you locate and organize all the photos on your computer, edit and add effects to your photos with a few simple clicks and share your photos with others through email, prints and on the web.

Play those tunes:

Audacity

Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Definitely the best of breed.

iTunes

According to Apple this is the world’s best digital music jukebox. Download music, TV shows, movies, and more. Frankly, I’m not a big fan, but…..

Winamp

A multimedia player that supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, live and recorded, authored worldwide.

Watch your fav videos:

Miro

Miro is a free application for channels of internet video (also known as ‘video podcasts and video rss). Miro is designed to be easy to use and to give you an elegant full screen viewing experience.

VLC

A highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Free FLV Converter

This free software let you search YouTube and dailyMotion videos without opening your browser and you can even watch the videos using the built-in video player.

Free Video to iPhone Converter

Convert video files to Apple iPhone MP4 video format. Convert the whole movie, or select a partition from the movie to convert (trim video).

iPod Video Converter

Free iPod Video Converter provides an easy and complete way to convert all popular video formats to iPod video.

Better browsing:

FireFox

FireFox includes tons of useful features such as tabbed browsing, built-in and customizable search bars, a built-in RSS reader and a huge library of extensions developed by thousand of developers.

Opera

Opera 10.50 has you flying through Web pages with never-before-seen speed, and surfing with advanced features that make it easy to get the most from the Web.

Web of Trust (WOT)

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Protect your system:

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

The free version of this speed demon (it’s faster at scanning than any anti-malware program I’ve tested in the last 2 years), is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers. I run Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware every day, as a secondary malware scanner.

SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition

The free version of this award winning program, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers. And why not? SUPERAntiSpyware is well known for its high malware detection rate.

A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface makes SUPERAntiSpyware straightforward to setup, customize, and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

Spyware Terminator

Spyware Terminator excels in strong active protection against know and unknown threats. If anything, I find it perhaps a little overly aggressive. On the other hand, better this than the alternative. This application is the single most downloaded security application through my site, with better than 40,000 downloads.

PC Tools Firewall

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

HiJackFree

If you are an experienced/advanced computer user, and you’re looking for a program to strengthen your anti-malware resources, then HiJackFree is one that’s worth taking a look at. This free application, from EMSI Software, offers a potent layer of additional protection to add to your major anti-malware programs.

The program operates as a detailed system analysis tool that can help you in the detection and removal of Hijackers, Spyware, Adware, Trojans, Worms, and other malware. It doesn’t offer live protection but instead, it examines your system, determines if it’s been infected, and then allows you to eradicate the malware.

Trinity Rescue Kit

Trinity Rescue Kit or TRK is a free live Linux distribution that aims specifically at recovery and repair operations on Windows machines, but is equally usable for Linux recovery issues.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk

This rescue CD can scan your boot sector, and your Hard Drives from the outside looking in. Malware doesn’t have a chance to hide if it’s not running. It’s become the first step I now use when I’m dealing with an infected machine.

ThreatFire

ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. Highly recommend this one!

Web of Trust (WOT)

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

SnoopFree Privacy Shield

SnoopFree Privacy Shield is a powerful application that guards your keyboard, screen and open windows from all spy software. I have been using this application for quite some time, and I have been amazed at the number of programs that have requested access to my keyboard and screen. In particular, programs that I am in the process of installing.

If you’re serious about privacy, this is a must have addition to your security toolbox.

Staying in touch:

Skype

Skype has become my preferred method of contact. I use the free Skype video calling feature, dozens of times a day to speak with contacts worldwide.

In its basic form, Skype is a free communication package, using proprietary code, which allows users to make free computer to computer calls, including video calls, across the globe. As well, there are a bundle of additional features, that can be purchased at a low cost, which will expand the application’s functionality.

Windows Live messenger

The next generation MSN Messenger. It comes with everything that were already available in Messenger, and a new Initiative that makes helping your favorite charity as easy as sending an instant message.

Pidgin

A multi-protocol Instant Messaging client that allows you to use all of your IM accounts at once. Pidgin can work with: AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpaceIM and many more.

Trillian

A fully featured, stand-alone, skinnable chat client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC.

System Tools:

CCleaner

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast; normally taking less than a second to run.

Glary Utilities

Glary Utilities, a free all-in-one utility, is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. Personal experience with this application for years, has convinced me that a typical user can really benefit by having this application on their system.

With this free program you can tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

WinPatrol

Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs.

You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Revo Uninstaller

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program to uninstall programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application.

After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over (those “orphaned” registry entries we talked about earlier), on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Autoruns

This free utility has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, in my view, and shows you what programs are configured to run during system boot up or login, and the order Windows processes them. These programs will include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys.

You can configure Autoruns to show additional locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and more. Autoruns goes considerably beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows.

Regseeker

The longer you use Windows, the more cluttered your registry can become, especially if you regularly install and uninstall software. Many applications, on being uninstalled, leave behind “orphan” registry entries. They don’t remove all traces of themselves; causing problems such as sluggish performance, system lockups, or a bloated registry that takes longer to load on startup.

With the click of a button, Regseeker will scan your registry for these fragmented files, and safely remove them.

Recommended for advanced users only.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Audio Applications, Browser add-ons, Cleaning Your Computer, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet TV, Open Office, Open Source, PC Tools, Registry Cleaners, Software, System Security, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP, WOT (Web of Trust)

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.

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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