Saturday, December 29, 2007

Optimizing Windows Vista

Whether you upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista or purchased a computer with Windows Vista preinstalled, there’s a lot you can do to optimize Windows Vista. Optimization involves not only making Windows Vista work faster but more usable and safer. Optimizing Windows Vista isn’t too different from optimizing Windows XP. Before making again changes, it is best to create a system restore point. To create a restore point, Start Menu > in the Start Search box, type “system restore” (without the quotation marks) > click “System Restore” > the User Account Control (UAC) will appear, click [Continue] > click “Open System Protection” > select your local hard drive (e.g. Local Drive C: ) > click [Create] > type in a name for the restore point > click [Create].

Once you have created a system restore point, you are already to start optimizing Windows Vista. Here is how:

  1. Restrict the number of startup programs: All programs use up RAM and CPU cycles. By limiting the number of startup programs, you have more RAM and CPU free. There are a number of ways to change the programs which load at startup. By far the easiest way is to use the Windows Vista’s System Configuration Utility. To access it, go to Start Menu > in the Start Search box, type “msconfig,” > from the search results, click “msconfig” > the UAC will appear, click [Continue] > a new dialog window will appear, click on the “Startup” tab > uncheck any program that doesn’t need to be loaded at startup > [Apply] > [O.K.] > Restart. It may be difficult to identify the startup program solely by its file name. Should you come across a program you don’t recognize, use the website Process Library to identify the program.

  1. Remove junk files: You would be amazed that the number of temporary files, temporary Internet files, download files and log files which Windows Vista generates. Removing these useless files will free up hard drive space. Like the older versions of Windows operating system, Windows Vista has a built in disk cleanup utility called, of all things, Disk Cleanup. To start Disk Cleanup, go to Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup gives you the option of cleaning files only from your user account or all users’ accounts. For now, just clean files from your account. Next, select the hard drive or partition where the files are located. Disk Cleanup allows you to select what files are to be deleted. At the very least, remove Download Files, Temporary Files and Temporary Internet Files. You can also include log files as well though some users might find the log files useful - to be honest, I have never found a need for them.

  1. Defrag the hard drive: After cleaning your hard drive, it is time to defrag it. To start Windows Vista’s Disk Defragmenter, go to Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Be aware that it might take several minutes or hours to defrag your hard drive, depending on the size of the hard drive and the level of defragmentation.

  1. Get rid of the eye-candy: Windows Vista comes loaded with special visual effects, such as: transparent windows, animation, fading, special icons, sliding menus and other eye pleasing but computer resource hogging effects. You can select which visual effects you want to keep or disable, right click the “My Computer” icon on your desktop > click “Advanced system settings” > the UAC will appear, click [Continue] > in the new Windows, click on the “ Advanced” tab > under “Performance,” click [Settings] > click on the “Visual Effect” tab > uncheck any visual effect you can live without > [Apply] > [O.K.]. Personally, I keep “show contents when dragging,” “show shadows under mouse pointer” and “smooth edges of screen fonts.”

  1. Get rid of the sidebar: Windows Vista is the first Microsoft operating system to have a sidebar. The sidebar can be used to install several gadgets on the desktop. For example, by default, there is an analog clock and RSS gadget installed. To access the sidebar, go to Start Menu > in the Search box, type “sidebar” > in the search result click “Windows Sidebar Properties” > uncheck “Start Sidebar when Windows Starts.”

  1. Optimize the size of the paging file: There are 2 types of memory that Windows Vista uses. The first is the physical memory, RAM, and the virtual memory, paging file. With the paging file, Windows Vista converts part of the hard drive, ROM, to act like RAM. The important thing to remember is that RAM works much faster than virtual memory. By default, Windows Vista sets the size of the paging file to 1.5x the amount of RAM. For the most part, this is size is fine. But, if the size of is too large, Windows Vista would use more virtual memory, which is slower, than is optimal. So, the goal is to a set an appropriate size for the paging file. In addition, since the paging file which is part of the hard drive, it can also become fragmented. Fragmentation can be minimized by setting a fixed size for the paging file. To change settings for the paging file, right click on the “My Computer” on the desktop > click “Advanced system settings” > the UAC will appear, click [Continue] > click the “Advanced” tab > under “Performance,” click [Settings] > click the “Advanced” tab > under “Virtual memory,” click [Change] > select the local drive (e.g. C: ) > select “Custom size” > for both “Initial size” and “Maximum size” enter the same number. If you have 1GB of RAM, set these values to 1024MB. If you have 2GB of RAM, see these values to 512MB. If you have more than 2GB of RAM, consider setting these values to “0” and not using any virtual memory. When you have enter the amount of virtual memory, click [Set] > [O.K.] > [Apply] > [O.K.] > Restart.

  1. Optimize the size of the Recycle Bin: The size of the recycle bin is a percentage of the hard drive. If you have a 200GB hard drive then 12% of 200GB is 24GB. Who needs a 24GB recycle bin? Thankfully, Windows Vista allows users to adjust the size of the recycle bin, right click the “Recycle Bin” icon on the desktop > select “Properties” > select the hard drive > select “Custom size” > enter a reasonable size for the recycle bin (e.g. 250MB) > [Apply] > [O.K.].

  1. Display the extension for all files: By default Windows Vista does not show file extensions. Why is it important to see file extension you ask? Well, you don’t want to accidentally open an executable file (e.g. .exe). Sadly, hackers create files which look like innocent text files but, in fact, they are program files. Users click on them and end up installing spyware or some other form of malware. However, you can have Windows Vista show file extensions, start Windows Explorer > from the menu bar, select “Tools” > Properties > Folder Options > select “View” tab > uncheck “Hide extension for known file types” > [Apply] > [O.K.].

  1. Make Windows Vista Secure: Microsoft made Windows Vista to be the safest operating system it has ever created and they did a decent job. Windows Vista comes with a bi-directional firewall and Windows Defender, Microsoft’s anti spyware application. However, you will need an antivirus program. There are several decent free antivirus programs so you don’t have to spend a dime - which is a good thing since you had to spend your money on Windows Vista. The 3 most popular free antivirus programs are: Avast, AVG and Antivir. All 3 programs can be downloaded from Filehippo’s website. All 3 programs have their strengths and weaknesses. Antivir has the highest detection and removal rate of the 3 but does not scan incoming e-mail – it does however scan outgoing e-mail. Avast has a detection and removal rate but its unorthodox GUI is less than intuitive to use. Grisoft’s AVG has the lowest detection and removal rate of the 3 but its inituitive controls makes it easy to use. PC World Magazine has an excellent review of many popular free and not so free antivirus programs.

  1. Increase the number of simultaneous connections that Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7) uses to connect to the Internet: By default, IE 7 only creates 2 simultaneous connections to the Internet. However, if you have a broadband connection, you can increase the number of simultaneous connections to 10. Unfortunately, to increase the number of simultaneous connections, you need to edit the Windows Registry, which is no small matter. If you do decide to go ahead, create a system restore point prior to editing the registry. It will save you a lot of grief should something go wrong. To edit the Windows Registry, you need to start Vista’s registry editor, go to Start Menu > in the search box, enter “regedit” > in the results, click “regedit.exe.” At this point, refer to Microsoft’s support page to edit the registry. The webpage is for IE 5 and IE 6, however, they apply to Windows Vista as well. You can also refer to VistaWired’s tutorial as well. I am sure many people would say that, instead of editing IE 7 settings, switch to Firefox web browser. Well, I can’t deny that is a great idea.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Download details: Standalone Update Package for Windows XP Service Pack 3

Download details: Standalone Update Package for Windows XP Service Pack 3

Today, Microsoft has released the first candidate of Service Pack 3 for Windows XP. This was quite unexpected since many believed that even a release candidate would not be offered until after Windows Vista SP1 was released. I must emphasize that this is only a release candidate and not a final product. Nevertheless, there is great excitement over this third service pack for Windows XP. The computer gurus over at Devil Mountain Software have tested the preliminary SP3 and, based on their benchmark, they saw a 10% gain in performance compared to Windows XP SP2 (link).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BurnAware Free Burning Software

BurnAware is a free alternative to Nero and Roxio burning software. BurnAware can burn data, audio, image and video files to almost any CD/DVD media. There is no shortage of free burning software – DeepBurner comes to mind – but BurnAware is the first free alternative that burns video files effortlessly. It is incredibly easy to use. There is a main menu where you select what type of media file you want to burn. Next, you browse to where the file is located on your hard drive or optical drive and BurnAware does the rest. BurnAware doesn’t have the advance features you would find in Nero and Roxio. However, the average user rarely uses these advance features anyway. So, if you are shopping for free burning software, you don’t need to look and further.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

PC World - Microsoft Readies 7 Patches

PC World - Microsoft Readies 7 Patches

Come next week's scheduled "Patch Tuesday," Microsoft will be releasing a total of 7 security patches. Of the seven patches, 3 are "critical" and the other 4 are "important." It is interesting to not that 5 of the patches affect Windows Vista, Microsoft's newest and supposedly securest operating system - I guess everything is relative. As usual, Microsoft has not disclosed details of the 7 patches. Sadly, once the patches are released, it is common now for hackers to use the details on the patches to create hacks to exploit them. Thereby threatening Windows users who do not patch their computers promptly.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hackers Use Banner Ads on Major Sites to Hijack Your PC

Hackers Use Banner Ads on Major Sites to Hijack Your PC

There is a new danger on the Internet. Banner ads on several legitimate websites have been "infected" with malware.

Wire writes "If you've seen any of the ads, you may have experienced something like this: You're on a legitimate site. Your browser window closes down. A new browser window comes up, redirecting you to an antivirus site, while a dialog box comes up telling you that your computer is infected and that your hard drive is being scanned. The malware tries to download software to your computer and scans your hard drive again."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

PC World - Gmail Update Draws Gripes

PC World - Gmail Update Draws Gripes

Earlier this month, Google has been slowly rolling out an upgrade to its popular e-mail client, Gmail 2.o. Sadly, many users are reporting problems with this latest version. The most common complaint is Gmail 2.0 works very slowly. Google is aware of the problems and are working hard to correct it. Many users, frustrated with the new upgrade, have returned to the old Gmail 1.0.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wal-Mart fires warning shots over Black Friday sales price leaks

Wal-Mart fires warning shots over Black Friday sales price leaks

Many of you are familiar with Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, which starts holiday shopping. Between Black Friday and Christmas, retailers make 50% of their sales for the year during this period. Typically, retailers slash prices to entice buyers to purchase items from their stores. However, sale prices are not revealed until Black Friday. Each year, certain individuals manage to get their hands on these sale prices and post them on various websites. Retailers frown upon the early release of their sales. Up until now, retailers rarely have pursue legal actions against those suspected of publishing their sales. However, this year, it looks like retailers have lost their patience over the matter and have made taken serious steps to penalize anyone who published their sales before companies' release date. Wal-Mart is leading the charge. Wal-Mart contends that their sales circulars are copy protected, which is a new twist. Read the full article for more details.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Removing Rogue Antispyware

Unfortunately, not all advertised antispyware applications are legitimate security software. In fact, for some time now, there are scores of what are commonly called "Rouge Antispyware" programs. These programs advertise to remove spyware when, in truth, they add spyware to computers. Oftentimes, these programs install themselves without the user's knowledge or consent. Once installed, they display ominous messages warning the user that their computer has been infected with spyware and scare them to purchase their product to remove them. Sadly, the only spyware installed is the rogue antispyware program. Oftentimes, these programs are incredibly hard to remove, even genuine antispyware programs have a hard time remove all their files. Thankfully, there is a free utility, RougeRemover, which can remove a long list of rogue antispyware programs. If you find yourself in a position where your computer is possibly infected with rogue antispyware, try RougeRemove which is absolutely free and is the real deal. Here is the list of rogue antispyware programs which it can remove.

Monday, July 09, 2007

$100 Bonus for Opening Up Citibank Ultimate Savings Account

$100 Bonus for Citibank Ultimate Savings Account

Direct saving accounts seem to be all the rage as of late. Direct accounts are those which are maintained by the customer using the Internet and ATM machines. There is no teller services and no statements by mail. It is a win win situation for both the banks and its customers. The bank saves money by providing less tellers for personal services which allows the banks to offer a higher interest rate. Citibank offers a 4.65% APR for its Ultimate Savings accounts. Now, as an added incentive, Citibank is offering a $100 signing bonus to all "New" account holders. There is no minimum opening balance! This offer ends on 8/31/2007. Customers will receive have $100 added to their accounts 90 days after the account has been opened. The account must be in good standing during this period. Who doesn't like free money?

Top 15 Ways to Extend Your Laptop’s Battery Life

Top 15 Ways to Extend Your Laptop’s Battery Life

This is for all you laptop owners. Here are some tips on how to extend the life of your batter, both short-term and long-term. No one wants their laptop's battery to die after 2 hours and no one wants their battery to be unable to hold a full charge after only 1 year.

The 3 most power consuming components of a laptop are the display, hard drive and CD/DVD drive. Needless to say, the best way to conserve power is to reduce the power used by these 3 components. This collection of tips have some old as well as new tricks to do just that. The article touches on some ways to make sure your laptop continues to hold a charge many years after you brought it.

It is good to talk about topics on laptop batteries other than their danger of catching on fire.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Top 20 Temporary and Disposable Email Services

Top 20 Temporary and Disposable Email Services

There are many instances when a disposable e-mail service comes in handy. For instance, a website requires you to register with your e-mail address in order to download a "free" software program. Or, if you want to search a website's database, you have to create a free account using your e-mail address as your user id. Whatever the case, there is always a potential abuse of e-mail address. The website can send you unwanted newsletters, ads or promos. Worse, the website can see your e-mail address to a third party - despite the fact their privacy policy forbids such a thing.

Disposable e-mail services create temporary e-mail address which works like ordinary e-mail address. However, they hide your real identity. Many of these disposable e-mail services offer a plethora of extra features. For example, some allow you to set the lifespan of e-mail address - 10 minutes to 10 days. Some forward received e-mail messages to your real e-mail address. Some even allow you to create a name for the e-mail address. For example,

The vast majority of these services are free. The article reviews a list of 20 disposable e-mail services. You don't need to use all of them. My personal favorite is Jetable, a French company. I like it because it allows me to set the lifespan of the e-mail address as well as forward any messages.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Remove Stubborn Files

New software programs offer more features and speed. However, this growth is not without its share of problems. In fact, as software becomes more and more sophisticated, it becomes bloated and more cluttered. As a result software programs become harder to uninstall. Yes, it is true that most programs come with their own uninstaller. But, they still leave remnants of the program on the computer, such as orphan registry keys and .dll library files. It has become such a problem that several major software makers have developed their own special removal tools, including: McAfee, Nero and Symantec.

For example, a colleague of mine recently decided to switch from McAfee Antivirus to Symantec Norton Antivirus. He used McAfee regular uninstall program and not their Consumer Product Removal Tool (MCPRT). After uninstalling McAfee, he tried to install Norton Antivirus. But, Norton Antivirus refused to install because it detected the presence of another antivirus program. You guessed it. There was enough trace McAfee registry keys and files left behind to prevent Norton Antivirus from installing, which was to be expected since 2 antivirus programs installed on the same computer just doesn’t work. Running MCPRT would remove the trace elements but it would create another problem. MCPRT not only removes McAfee Antivirus but all McAfee products, including McAfee SpamKiller, McAfee SiteAdvisor and etc.

There are other problems such as the dreaded “can’t locate install.log.” In situations such as these you need is a dedicated uninstaller program. Many of uninstaller programs are bundled with utility suites, such as: TuneUp Utilities 2007 and Iolo’s System Mechanic 7. Others are standalone programs such as Your Uninstaller and Total Uninstall. All the programs I mentioned come with a free trial period so you can try them before deciding to purchase it.

BetaNews | Zango Sues Spyware Remover, Again

BetaNews | Zango Sues Spyware Remover, Again

This is rich. Zango, previously known as 180Solutions, has filed suit against PC Tools, a well established security software maker. In particular, Zango accuses PC Tools' Spyware Doctor of falsely labeling its software as malicious. The suit asks for $35 Million USD as compensation. This is an old tactic used by Zango in the past to intimidate security software makers to delist their software products. In November 2005, Zango sued Zone Labs for falsely labeling their software as adware and/or spyware. But, by then, both the federal government and public were wary of Zango products and actions. Zango later dropped the lawsuit without any explanation.

In November 2006, the federal government charged Zango with deceptive tactics to install their software on personal computers without user's knowledge and approval. In addition, their software was designed to make it very difficult to remove. Zango settled out of court with the federal government and paid a fine of $3 million USD to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). After the settlement, top executives at Zango pledged to totally revamp their advertisement operation with promises to end distribution of what many considered adware. Well, true to form, this was another ruse and Zango is back to its old dirty tricks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Unlimited storage, it’s coming! - Yodel Anecdotal

Unlimited storage, it’s coming! - Yodel Anecdotal

Yahoo! announces unlimited storage space for Yahoo! Mail. This includes all free mail accounts. Yahoo! will be slowly rowing out the unlimited storage, so don't panic if you haven't gotten it yet.

Friday, May 04, 2007

BetaNews | Microsoft Preps 7 Security Bulletins

BetaNews Microsoft Preps 7 Security Bulletins

Next week Tuesday, Microsoft plans to release 7 security patches. Microsoft will not release details about the patches until Tuesday; however, it is known that 1 of the patches will address a DNS vulnerbility in Windows 2000. Other patches will most likely include fixes for Microsoft Office and Windows XP.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

TrendSecure | TrendProtect™ Overview

TrendSecure TrendProtect™ Overview

Many of you might be familiar with Trend Micro, a leading security software company. Trend Micro Internet Security Suite is one of the most popular security software bundle. What you might not know is that Trend Micro has a number of free products which can protect Internet users. With phishing scam on the rise, there is an increasing need to identify fake websites. TrendProtect is a plugin for both the Internet Explorer and Firefox web browsers which identifies phish websites. In addition, the plugin also scans individual webpages for malicious content. For a more in-depth review of TrendProtect read PC Magazine's review article.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Official Google Blog: We're expecting

Official Google Blog: We're expecting

As many of you know, Google acquired Writely, an online word processor service, and combined it with Google Spreadsheet to create Google's Docs and Spreadsheet. Now, there is news that Google will add a presentation module to Google's Docs and Spreadsheet. It looks like Google is creating an online clone of Microsoft Office. Google's CEO Eric Schmidt denies that Google is trying to compete with Microsoft Office. For one thing, Google Docs and Spreadsheet does not nearly have the same features as Microsoft Office. I am not entirely convinced. Earlier this week, Google announced that it had worked out a deal to buy DoubleClick for an astounding $3.1 billion USD. Google's cash cow is its online advertisement business. With its purchase of DoubleClick, Google has firmly cemented it dominance in online advertisement. Microsoft had high hopes to increase its presence in the online advertisement industry but that hope has evaporated. Unlike Google, Microsoft's cash cow is in its software products. With the exception of its Windows operating system software, Microsoft Office brings in the greatest revenue. Should Google be able to offer a viable free alternative to Microsoft Office, Microsoft can see its revenue from its software products evaporate as well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Google Pack Gets Updated

Google Pack

Google Pack has been updated. In response to users' comments, Google has made some changes to the free software programs that make up Google Pack. Previously, Google Pack contained a special version of Symantec Antivirus program, which offered free updates for 6 months. After 6 months, the program will alert users that, in order to continue receiving signature updates, they had to purchase a license. However, in this latest edition of Google Pack, Symantec offers unlimited signature updates. Also, Google has add a special version of Spyware Doctor - Spyware Doctor Starter Kit - to the latest edition. This starter kit version only offers limited real time protection - only OnGuard and File protection - but it is still an awesome addition to the pack. The Google Pack still includes: Picasa, Google Earth, Google Desktop and the other programs found in the previous edition.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Yahoo! Mail goes to infinity and beyond - Yodel Anecdotal

Yahoo! Mail goes to infinity and beyond - Yodel Anecdotal

In celebration of its 10 year anniversary, Yahoo! Mail announce that it will offer unlimited e-mail storage. The program will be slowly rolling out starting this May. I have to admit I am a little surprise by Yahoo! announcement. I have a Gmail account with 2.7GB+ e-mail storage and I have only used up 2%. What are people going to do with all that e-mail storage space? I wonder what Google and Microsoft are going to do in response to Yahoo! offer.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

High Yield Savings Accounts

Which Online High-Yield Savings Account is Best? ∞ Get Rich Slowly

Personally, I wouldn't mind a little more cash. There are a number of banks which are offering a high yield savings account. These banks are able to offer higher yields because the saving accounts are direct accounts. Everything is done electronic. Instead of using a bank teller, you can deposit, withdrawal and several other types of transaction via the Internet, ATM and telephone. The bank saves money and passes on these savings on to the customer. In fact, HSBC Direct is offering a promotional 6.00% APR from now to April 27th 2007.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Your ISP may be selling your web clicks

Your ISP may be selling your web clicks

Net users know that there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet. But, few know that people's own Internet Service Provider (ISP) sell logs of their customers' activity on the Internet to market research firms. What is more troubling is that ISP never inform their customers that they sell their data. ISP argue that the data is stripped of any details which might identify the customer. Still, this is little solace for customers who feel betrayed by their ISP.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Windows Defender 7 Released

Windows Defender home

Today, Microsoft released its latest version of Windows Defender 7. As some of you may know, several years ago Microsoft acquired Giant Software and its anti spyware program. Windows Defender is included in Windows Vista and is a free download for Windows XP users - users must go through Microsoft WGA validation process to install it. Windows Defender provides both real time protection and on demand scanning. Despite Microsoft best efforts, Windows Defender only provides mediocre detection and protection. Unlike antivirus programs, users can use more than 1 anti spyware program. In fact, it is recommended you do. On my computer, I have installed Spybot Search & Destroy, Lavasoft's Ad Aware and Windows Defender and have experience no problem.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification

Surprise, surprise! No security patches for next week's Patch Tuesday. However, there will be a new version of Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal tool. In addition, there will be 2 non critical patches on Windows Update and 4 non critical patches on Microsoft Update.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Enable Netflix Watch Now movie streaming on any account - Lifehacker

Enable Netflix Watch Now movie streaming on any account - Lifehacker

Earlier this year, Netflix rolled out a new service called "Watch Now." The service allows users to stream movies to their computer. Depending on which plan users use, users get an alloted amount of free movie downloads. For instance, users of the 3 out at a time plan get 18 hours of free movie downloads. Users can watch the movie but can not burn them to DVD or save them on to the hard drive. Netflix's plan was to slowly roll out the new service to members and have the service available to everyone by June of this year. However, a clever user discovered an easy way to automatically get the service without waiting. I am sure that Netflix will fix the glitch soon; so, if you are a Netflix customer and have not received the service then you better get going.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Save cached copies of your favorite webpages to your Gmail account for online and offline browsing

Save cached copies of your favorite webpages to your Gmail account for online and offline browsing

There are no shortages of good social bookmarking services on the Internet. Personally, I use, Digg and Yahoo! My Web. I have a preference for Yahoo! My Web because I have the option to save cached copies of any webpages. This comes in handy if, for whatever reason, the webpage disappears. Yes, you can use a permalink but not all websites offer them. In addition, with cached copies, you can instantly view them without having to go to the originating websites.

Today, I will describe how to save cached copies of webpages to Gmail, Google’s online e-mail service. Gmail offers an astounding 2.8+ GB of storage. You can use this space to hold all your saved webpages. You can tag and label all of your webpages for easy retrieval. Using Gmail’s sophisticated search options, you can generate a list of webpages which match your search query. In addition, you can setup your desktop e-mail client to download all these webpages and have them available for offline browsing.

For this to work, you will need a Gmail Account. Sign up for one at Gmail’s website. Jot down your new e-mail address and go website. Enter your gmail address and click [start menu]. The website will send an e-mail message to your gmail address. Return to your Gmail account and open the new message. The message will contain a link to register your toread account. Click on it to go to your account. On this new webpage, you will see 2 links, [toread] and [toread +]. Both are bookmarklets which you can drag and drop on to your toolbar. You will use [toread+] because it allows you to add a comment to your bookmark. Simply, drag and drop the link on to your toolbar. If you are using Internet Explorer, right click on the link > select Add to Favorites > select Links > [Add]. If you get a warning message, ignore it; [toread] uses javascript to bookmark webpages, which IE flags as a potential security risk.

Now, you are ready to save your favorite webpages. When you come across a webpage you want to save, click on the [toread+] bookmarklet. A new window will appear. Under comment, enter tags which will identify this webpage; separate each tag with a blank space. For example, for the Mozilla’s homepage, I enter the following tags: “mozilla opensource firefox browser freeware” (without the quotation marks). The webpage and tags are then sent to your Gmail address. The body of the message will contain a copy of the website. The tags will appear on the subject line and appears in the from field.

You can use Gmail sophisticated search options to easily find and sort your saved webpages. Open your Gmail account. To the left of the search box, click on Show Search Options. You can search by tags by entering the tag(s) on the Subject Line. You can search by content on a webpage by using Has the Words as well as search by date. Of course, you can use any combinations of these filters. You can also add labels to the messages to further sort your messages. For example, I use labels like “to do” or “important.” Now, you have a database of all your favorite webpages with an outstanding search tool to find and sort them. You can use your desktop e-mail client to download Gmail messages to browse your favorite webpages offline.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Restore Windows XP Performance

Restore Windows XP Performance

When you first took your computer out of the box, your computer was blazing fast. However, over time, you noticed that your computer gradually slowed down. Unfortunately, over time, your computer starts amassing useless temporary files, fragmented files on the hard drive, startup programs and the occasional spyware or other malicious files. Believe it or not, restoring your computer’s performance is relatively easy. What you need to do is to Clean It Up, Trim It Down and Lock It Up. Before going any further, you should create a system restore as a safety precaution. To create a system restore point, go to Start > Help and Support > Undo Changes to Your Computer with System Restore > Create a Restore Point > enter a name > [O.K.] > [Close].

Clean It Up

No matter how you use your computer, obsolete and useless files will clutter your hard drive. Removing these files will free up some precious hard drive space. But, that is not enough. You also need to defrag your hard drive. Ideally, you want your files to be consolidated on the hard drive for faster retrieval. But, in the real world, files are scattered throughout the hard drive. That’s why you need to defrag your hard drive.

  1. Remove Obsolete and Useless Files: Windows XP comes with its own disk cleanup utility. You can find it at Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. If you have more than one hard drive, you need to select the hard drive you want to clean. Once you are in Disk Cleanup, select Download Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Temporary Files and Recycle Bin. I recommend you don’t select Compress Old Files. After making your selection, click [O.K.].

  1. Defrag the Hard Drive: Once again, Windows XP comes with a disk defragmenter. You can find it at Start Menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. If you have more than one hard drive, you need to select the hard drive you want to defrag. Once in Disk Defragmenter, click [Analyze] to check the level of fragmentation your hard drive. Windows XP will inform you if you hard drive needs to be defrag. Of course, you can always click [Defragment] with or without Windows XP recommendation. Be patient; the process can take minutes or hours to complete depending on the level of fragmentation. Unfortunately, Windows XP’s defragmenter does not defrag the paging file. To defrag the paging file, you need to use the free utility PageDefrag. You don’t need to install it. Instead, click on it and select to defrag the paging file on the next reboot.

  1. Remove Obsolete Registry Keys: This is very important. Unless you absolutely know what you are doing, Do Not make any changes to the Windows registry. This includes adding, deleting and editing any registry key. Even a slight error in the Windows registry can lead to your computer becoming unstable and even unusable. You will need a registry cleaner to scan and remove obsolete registry keys. There are several free registry cleaners so you don’t need to spend a dime. But, I should mention that in my experience, the paid versions are invariable better than their free versions. Broadly speaking, all registry cleaners can be divided in to 2 groups. The first group are aggressive and the second not so aggressive. Each group has its own pro’s and con’s. Aggressive registry cleaner will search deep and wide to find all obsolete or useless keys; however, they cast a large net and they occasionally mislabel a registry key as useless when in fact it is not. The second group plays it safe and only includes registry keys that are completely safe to remove. However, they will miss some useless registry key. I recommend you stick with the second group. In this second group, I recommend the free CCleaner and Easy Cleaner. If you want a more aggressive scan, use either Eusing’s Registry Cleaner or Regseeker. Finally, always create a system restore point before making any changes. All of these programs prompt users to create a backup of the registry keys before making any changes. If you don’t mind spending some cash, PC Tool’s Registry Mechanic, TuneUp Utilities 2007 and Iolo’s System Mechanic 7.0 are excellent commercial registry cleaners.

Trim It Down

Once you have completed cleaning the junk on your computer, you need to turn off the bells and whistles on your computer. Have you ever noticed that after installing a new piece of software, a new icon appears on your system tray? It is very common for programs to add themselves to the startup program list. Ask yourself, do you really need Real Player to load at startup? Having to start so many programs takes time and resources. You need to cut down on the number of startup programs. Startup programs aren’t the only things which take up resources. Windows XP has a lot of eye candy. All those animations, fading toolbars and pretty icons make your desktop look great but slow down your computer. By cutting down on the number of special effects, you can free up CPU cycles and RAM. In addition, there are several Windows services working in the background. Many of which you don’t necessarily need. Microsoft tries to anticipate which services Windows users need. As a result, several services are turned on by default, some of which you don’t necessarily need. You can free up resources by disabling unnecessary services. This requires caution since disabling the wrong service might make your computer unstable or unusable.

  1. Turn Off Unnecessary Startup Programs: To remove a program from the startup program list, go to Start > Run > type “msconfig” (without the quotation marks) > [Enter] > click on the Startup tab > uncheck any program you don’t want > [O.K.] > Restart. It might be difficult to identify a program solely by its name. You can find out what a particular program does by searching for it on Bleeping Computer’s Startup Program Database. Just type in the name and click [Search]. In the rare case where it can not identify the program, you can also search for it on CastleCops’ Startup Program Database or search for it on the Process Library website. There are a number of programs that you want always to keep, such as your antivirus program, anti spyware program and firewall.

  1. Disable Visual Special Effects: The simplest thing to do is to remove the desktop background. You can trade in your Star Trek theme desktop background for something that doesn’t need as much resources. Go to Start > Control Panel > Display > click on the Desktop tab > select None > and select a color for the background. Next, move on to disabling visual effects. Right click My Computer > select Properties > click on the Advanced tab > under Performance, click [Settings] > click the Visual Effects tab > select Custom > uncheck any special effects you can do without > [O.K.]. Personally, I do away with everything except Show Window Content When Dragging and Show Shadow Under Mouse Pointer. You can experiment.

  1. Disable Unnecessary Windows Services: Again, this is an area in Windows XP which you need to know exactly what you are doing. Turning off the wrong service can cripple your computer. Create a system restore point before making any changes. Once you are done, go to Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Services. Things you need to know. Under status, if it says Started then the service is currently active. Under Startup Type, there are 3 possible values: (1) Automatic – the service is always on; (2) Manual – the service is turned on when needed; (3) Disable – the service is always off. Only change one service at a time. Keep a list of Windows services you have changed and their original settings. Consult online guides like The Elder Geek website for a description of each Windows service. Another good source is the Black Viper list hosted on MajorGeeks’ website. Determine if you need a particular Windows service or not. If you are not sure if you need a particular service, set it to Manual. If it is needed, the service will turn on by itself. To disable a service, right click the service and select "Stop." Right click the service again and select Properties > under Startup Type, select either "Disable" or "Manual" > [Apply] > [O.K.].

Lock It Up

Unfortunately, spyware is a very common cause of computer slow down. A decade ago, there was little spyware. Instead, your common hacker was a computer savvy teenager who created viruses for the purpose of bragging rights. These days, malicious files are created for the purpose of making money. For example, a third party hired by an ad agency might create an adware application which downloads itself on to your computer without your knowledge and consent. The adware then changes your web browser’s settings so the browser is redirected to the ad agency’s website. Another common tactic is to install spyware on your computer and steal all your user ids and passwords. To fight against these newest attacks, you need to add security software to protect your computer. All computers should have at least an antivirus program, anti spyware program and a firewall. There is no shortage of good free security software. Remember, free does not mean inferior. Please read my post of free security software. To secure your computer, you need to set Windows XP to automatically download and install Windows updates. In addition, you need to install and update your security software regularly, secure Internet Explorer and disable Windows components which pose a security risk.

  1. Set Windows XP to Automatically Download and Install Windows Updates: This is the single most important step towards securing your computer. To turn on automatic updates, go to Start > Control Panel > Security Center > Automatic Updates > click [Turn on Automatic Updates].

  1. Installing and Updating Your Antivirus and Anti spyware Software: Be it your antivirus or anti spyware, you need to update it regularly. Most antivirus and anti spyware programs have an automatic update function; be sure to turn it on. Antivirus and anti spyware programs need virus and spyware signatures to detect and remove the latest threats. In addition, try to use an antivirus which has heuristic capabilities. Heuristic scanning is different from regular virus scanning. It does not use virus signatures to detect malicious files; instead, it focuses on detecting behavior which is common to all viruses. This is great when a new virus signature is not available. I highly recommend Antivir, which offers both real time and on demand heuristic scanning. In regards to spyware, unlike antivirus programs, you can install more than 1 anti spyware program. In fact, it is advisable to do so. I use Lavasoft’s Ad Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy and Microsoft’s Windows Defender without any problems.

  1. Install a Firewall: The function of a firewall is to monitor communication between your computer and the Internet. Ideally, you want the firewall to monitor both incoming and outgoing traffic. Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) comes with a firewall. If you haven’t already downloaded and installed SP2 then now it is a good time to do so. Unfortunately, the firewall is only unidirectional; it only monitors incoming traffic, which is less than ideal. Windows XP’s firewall assumes anything already running on your computer is safe and allows any of your computer’s applications to connect to the Internet. This is problematic. For example, let’s say a Trojan Horse was already on your computer when you installed SP2. Windows XP’s firewall will not stop it from collecting data from your computer and transmitting it to the Internet. There are several free bidirectional firewalls. I highly recommend Sunbelt-Kerio Firewall. Other good free firewalls are Comodo Firewall Pro and Jetico Firewall. These last 2 firewalls are more suited for advanced users since they will prompt a user to either allow or block a connection while Sunbelt-Kerio Firewall will make the decisions for you

  1. Secure Internet Explorer: As a result of being the most widely used web browser, Internet Explorer is a prime target of hackers. By far the single most important thing to secure Internet Explorer is to update to Internet Explorer 7. Internet Explorer 7 fixes several vulnerabilities found in Internet Explorer 6. IE 7 adds an integrated anti phish tool, tighter control over ActiveX and Javascript, easy security certificate identification and blocking popup windows disguised as new windows. In order to update to IE 7, you will need to go through Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Validation process to install it. You can download IE 7 from Microsoft’s download webpage. If you don’t want to update to IE 7, there are still ways to secure IE 6. From the menu bar go to Tools > Internet Options > click the Security tab > click on the Internet icon > under Security Level for this Zone, click [Custom level]. Make the following changes:

    • Download signed ActiveX controls – [Prompt]

    • Download unsigned ActiveX controls – [Disable]

    • Initialize and script ActiveX controls not mark as safe – [Disable]

    • Run ActiveX controls and plugins – [Prompt]

    • Script ActiveX marked safe for scripting – [Prompt]

    • Active Scripting – [Prompt]

    • Allow Programmatic Clipboard Access – [Disable].

  1. Remove Windows Services and Components which Pose a Security Risk: Unfortunately, Internet Explorer is not the only security risk in Windows XP. In fact, there are security vulnerabilities throughout the operating system. Microsoft included many services to Windows XP to provide users with more features; unfortunately, hackers have exploited these services to take control of your computer. For the best security, disable Windows services which allows remote access to your computer.

    • Remote Access Auto Connection Manager – [Manual]

    • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager – [Disable]

    • Remote Registry Service – [Disable]

    • Telnet – [Disable]

    • Terminal Service [Disable]

    • Universal Plug and Play Device Host – [Disable]

    • WebClient – [Disable].

    • Messenger (has nothing to do with MSN messenger) – [Disable]. (You can choose to uninstall Messenger, go to Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Add/Remove Windows Component > select Messenger > Remove).


Friday, March 02, 2007

Moziilla Releases Thunderbird

Mozilla Releases Thunderbird

Mozilla has released the latest version of Thunderbird. The new version contains a few security fixes as well as some bug fixes. Users can choose to either download the complete installation file or use the "Check for Updates" feature found on the menu bar's Help Option. For more information on the changes, read the release notes.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Men make plea deal in MySpace case -

Men make plea deal in MySpace case -

There few things that give me greater pleasure than hearing criminals being caught and convicted. Today, Shaun Harrison, 19, and Saverio Mondelli, 20, of Suffolk County, New York pleaded no contest to charges of extort and illegal computer access. The 2 teenagers had developed a program whereby visitors to MySpaces were monitored and recorded. In a daring move, they demanded money from MySpace for the program claiming it as a "consulting fee." MySpace responded by contacting the authorities. Afterwards, with the help of authorities, they lured the 2 teenage hackers to Los Angeles. Instead of gettings their ransom, they were quickly arrested by Secret Service agents. The 2 teenage hackers could have received up to 4 years imprisonment but, as a result of a plea, they only received 3 years of probation. In addition to probation, both teenagers are forbidden to visit the MySpace website and had severely limited access to computers. Personally, I would have like to have seen a stiffer punishment. Only with harsh sentences will others like these 2 teenagers be dissuaded from committng such crimes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Reduce Firefox Memory Consumption

Reduce Firefox Memory Consumption

I am a big fan of Firefox, Mozilla's open source web browser. Unfortunately, Firefox has been plagued by memory leaks which have been present since Firefox 1.x. However, there are ways to curb Firefox use of memory, such as decreasing the number of webpages Firefox keeps in memory. Find more tweaks and tips to reign in Firefox memory use.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mozilla releases security updates | CNET

Mozilla releases security updates | CNET

Mozilla has released a security update for both Firefox 2.0 and Firefox 1.5. The new versions and are available at Firefox's homepage. Users can also choose to update via the "Check for Update" feature. This release address a number of security flaws, including: Firefox cookie flaw discovered by Michal Zalewski, the location.hostname vulnerability and others. For complete details, read Firefox's release notes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

BetaNews | Google Treads Further on Microsoft's Turf

BetaNews Google Treads Further on Microsoft's Turf

For some time now, many have speculated that Google will release its own online version of Microsoft Office. Today, rumor has become reality as Google released its Google Apps Premier Edition. Google Premier Edition is a fee based version of Google Docs and Spreadsheets for business. In addition to a word processor an spreadsheet, it also provides access to APIs, conference room scheduling for calendar, 10GB of e-mail storage, extended phone support, and mobile access to e-mail on BlackBerry devices. Granted, Google Apps Premier Edition is not on par with Microsoft Office yet, but who is to say what will be the case a year from now.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Is Netflix using a new way to throttle customers?

Many of you are familiar with Netflix, the popular online DVD movie rental service. This is how it works. Netflix customers create their own DVD movie queue. Netflix will mail the DVD movie, in the order of the queue the customer created, to the customer. The customer can keep the DVD movie as long as he likes without late fees. When the customer is finished with the DVD, he mails the DVD movie back to Netflix using Netflix pre paid envelope. When Netflix has received the DVD movie, it will send the next DVD movie on the queue.

Netflix has several plans; the 3 DVD movies at a time plan is the most popular, which Netflix charges $17.99/month. Sounds like a good until someone find out that Netflix penalizes those customers who have a high turn over rate. You see, the greatest overhead for Netfix is the postage. For those customers who receive more than 10 DVD movies/month, Netflix losses month. As a result, Netflix uses a technique called “throttling,” whereby Netflix purposely delays sending DVD movies to these customers. The idea is to curb their high turnover rate.

Supposedly, Netflix uses an algorithm to monitor customer turnover and slow down delivery as needed. However, I suspect that there is a new gimmick Netflix is using to curb turnover rate. These past 2 months, most of the movies on my queue are part of a series. For example, I have on my queue the entire third season of Enterprise. What was strange was I didn’t receive them in order. I received disc 2 before disc 1 by 2 days. Now, of course, you can say this is a fluke. However, just this week, I placed the 2 disc series for Bleach – a somewhat popular anime series – and again I received disc 2 before disc 1 by 2 days. Now, this couldn’t be a coincidence. What am I am going to do with disc 2 when I haven’t seen disc 1? Well, obviously, I have to wait until disc 1 will arrive before watching it. And there is the beauty of it. Now, I have to keep disc 2. Now, Netflix has effectively “throttled” me. What do you think?

Monday, February 12, 2007

BillP Studios: WinPatrol

BillP Studios: WinPatrol

Winpatrol 2007 has been released. I have spoke about Winpatrol in the past. It is a fantastic free intrusion detection software (IDS) or host intrusion prevention (HIP). Winpatrol monitors several critical areas within Windows OS. For example, it monitors changes to the Windows Registry, Startup programs, Internet Explorer's homepage, IE's default search page, Browser Help Objects (BHO) and many more items. This is the first version which is compatiable with Windows Vista. This newest version also adds startup program delay. I find this feature to be invaluable. Oftentimes, you don't need programs to launch immediately after logging in to your account. The more startup programs a system has the longer it takes start. Of course, you want your antivirus and firewall to start immediately. But, you can delay the start of programs like Microsoft Office or Real Player. A paid version of Winpatrol is available. The paid version adds much more in depth information about processes and software running on the computer.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Optimize Your Broadband Connection

Windows XP’s default settings are not optimized for broadband use. There are several ways to optimize your broadband connection speed. Perhaps the easiest way is to use the free utility TCP Optimizer. It does not need to be installed. Instead, just run it from whatever folder you saved it to. Here are the items you need to get started.

  1. TCP Optimizer
  2. Adobe Flash Player
  3. Internet Explorer 6 or later
  4. Firefox 1.5 or later

Before changing any settings, you should create a system restore point – just in case things go wrong. Afterwards, you need to measure your current connection speed. This will serve as a baseline to compare connection speeds after changing the settings. There are several websites which can measure your connection speed. I recommend Speakeasy Speed Test. Go to Speakeasy Speed Test website. On the left side, there is a list of web servers. Choose the one geographically closes to you. Click on the button and the site will start measuring your speed. During the test, do nothing. After measuring your download speed, it will also measure your upload speed. Be patient and wait until both tests are completed. You can tell when it is completed when both your download and upload speeds are displayed. Jot down your download speed in kbps (kilobits per second).

Double click TCP Optimizer to launch the program. On the menu bar, go to File > Backup Current Settings. Give the backup file a name > [Save]. You can never be too careful. Now, you can start tweaking the settings. Just below the menu bar is a scale. On this scale, slide the bar to the speed you jotted down from Speakeasy Speed Test. Next, under “Network Adapter selection,” select the adapter you are using to connect to the Internet. Usually, it is the name of your router, cable modem or DSL. If you are not sure then check “Modify All Network Adapter.” On the bottom right hand corner, you will see 3 settings: Current settings, Optimal settings and Custom settings. Select Optimal settings and then click [Apply changes]. You will need to restart your computer.

After restarting your computer, go to Speakeasy Speed Test and measure your connection speed again. You should see an increase in the download speed. Unfortunately, you will most likely not see a significant increase in the upload speed. Once you got a hand on things, you might want to customize the settings. You can find some helpful tips on Speed Guide’s website. PC Tool’s website also has some helpful tips.

Friday, February 09, 2007

BetaNews | Super Size Patch Tuesday No Valentine

BetaNews Super Size Patch Tuesday No Valentine

Next Tuesday, Microsoft is expected to release 12 patches for February's Patch Tuesday. The package will include at least 5 "critical" patches. A number of the patches are expected to close up vulnerabilities in Windows, Microsoft Office and Visual Studio. Some of these vulnerabilities are already being exploited.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Microsoft’s Vista anti-virus solution slammed

Microsoft’s Vista anti-virus solution slammed

This is just plain embarrassing. Microsoft's Live OneCare failed to pass Virus Bulletin’s VB100 tests. Virus Bulletin is a security software research laboratory which runs a battery of tests on antivirus software to checks the software effectiveness in detecting viruses which are known to be active in the real world (a.k.a. in the wild). In order to receive Virus Bulletin's VB100 certification, the antivirus program has to not only detect all the viruses but also generate no false positives. It is clear that Microsoft's Live OneCare failed to receive certification; however, at this time, it is not known which tests Live OneCare had failed. The latter strikes a heavy blow at Microsoft which has been touting the new security on its newest Windows operating System, Windows Vista. After so much "hype," you would think that Microsoft would have done at better job of ensuring the efficacy of its security software.

FYI, Live OneCare was not the only major security software which failed to pass Virus Bulletin's VB100 tests. McAfee’s VirusScan Enterprise, G DATA’s AntiVirusKit 2007, and Norman’s VirusControl all failed to pass the series of tests. However, many antivirus program did pass the tests, including: Computer Associates, Fortinet, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Sophos and Symantec.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Google opens Gmail to all | CNET

Google opens Gmail to all CNET

Today, Google officially open Gmail for all who want to open an account. Previously, Gmail was only available by invitation from an existing account holder. Later, Google opened Gmail to those with a mobile cell and students. At present, Gmail provides 2.8+ GB of space and it keeps inching up. Gmail is easy to use with intuitive controls. In place of folders, messages can be sorted with labels. Gmail sports one of the most effective message search feature. Gmail integrated with other Google services, such as: Google Documents and Spreadsheet, Google Maps and Google Calendar. Some users have utilize the hugh amount of storage space available on Gmail to backup files online.

PC World - Hackers Slow Internet Root Servers With Attack

PC World - Hackers Slow Internet Root Servers With Attack

Hard to believe but there was a DDoS attack on several servers which direct traffic on the Internet. In particular, 2 of the 13 "root" servers suffered significant slow down as a result of the attack, one was maintained by the United States' Department of Defense and the other maintained by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN ). An army of compromised computers (a.k.a zombies) launched the attack. As of today, there is no clear motive behind the attack. But, it is unsettling to see how hackers can easily cripple the Internet.

Monday, February 05, 2007

PC World - Super Bowl Virus Spreads

PC World - Super Bowl Virus Spreads

Visitors to the Miami Dolphins websites had an unpleasant surprise. Over the weekend, hackers embedded malicious files on the sites, including a Trojan Horse which stole user names and passwords. It is still unclear how many sites were affected, those affiliated with the Miami Dolphins or otherwise. What is clear is the malicious files exploited 2 vulnerabilities in Windows. Patches for these vulnerabilities have already been made available by Microsoft. Only computers which had failed to install these patches were affected. In other words, this is yet another example of why all Windows users should enable automatic Windows updates.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Shrinkwrap Licenses: An Epidemic Of Lawsuits Waiting To Happen - News by InformationWeek

Shrinkwrap Licenses: An Epidemic Of Lawsuits Waiting To Happen - News by InformationWeek

As many of you know, software makers oftentimes include End User License Agreements (EULA). Potential users need to agree to the terms spelled out in the EULA before the software application can be installed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don't bother reading the EULA; instead, people usually scroll down to the "I Agree" portion and proceed to install the software without realizing what they have agreed to. Would you agree to allow the software program to record what other software programs are installed on your computer? Would you agree to allow the software program to remove record your activity on the Internet? Chances are you wouldn't but, by signing off on the EULA, you may very well have done just so!

Like many other people, I am also very intimidated by the wording of EULA's. Almost without exception, they are written in a language which is incomprehensible to average Joe Schmo. You need to be a lawyer to understand the jargon. Well, there is a way to check if an EULA is safe to agree to without having to get law degree. You can use Javacool Software's free EULAlyzer. It is a simple tool which analyzes an EULA searching for key words, such as: third party and/or sponsors. Basically words which are often found in less than reputable EULA's. Don't neglect to check the EULA. It might very well save you from a ton of grief. As I oftentimes say, "A pinch of caution is better than a pound of trouble."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Make Firefox Look Like Internet Explorer :: Mozilla Stuff ::

Make Firefox Look Like Internet Explorer :: Mozilla Stuff ::

Some of you may have heard of John Haller. He is the creator of the portable versions of both Firefox and Thunderbird. In a strange move, he has written a guide on how to customize Firefox user interface to look like Internet Explorer. I am a little bewildered. I was under the impression that people switched to Firefox because they wanted get away from Internet Explorer. Perhaps, he wrote the guide in order to make the process of switching from Internet Explorer to Firefox less intimidating. Regardless, it is an interesting guide.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Windows Vista Launches to Consumers

Windows Vista Launches to Consumers

After several delays, Windows Vista has finally arrived. Many large computer vendors are offering computers with Windows Vista already installed. In addition, people can purchase Windows Vista upgrade CD's, Windows Vista Installation CD's (Retail) and Windows Vista installations CD's (OEM). As many of you are aware, Windows Vista comes in several favors, including, Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Enterprise, Business and Starter. Windows Vista Starter is not available in the United States. This version of Windows Vista is available for those in the third world. Be advised, Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Starter do not have Aero. Also, those considering buying Windows Vista should review the system requirements before buying it. Please read PC World Magazine's FAQ website for Windows Vista.

Monday, January 29, 2007

When They Say Upgrade, They Mean It: No Clean Installs with Windows Vista Upgrade Discs

When They Say Upgrade, They Mean It: No Clean Installs with Windows Vista Upgrade Discs

In the past, when a user upgrades to a newer version of Windows, users could perform a "clean" install by inserting the upgrade CD and then the old installation CD. The old installation CD served as proof of a legitimate copy of the older Windows OS. The latter is a clean installation of the new Windows OS because users were not copying the upgrade over the older Windows OS. Now, starting with Windows Vista, Microsoft has halted such clean installs with upgrade CD. In order to upgrade Windows, a pre existing Windows OS must already be installed. This poses a problem since it would mean copying the new Windows OS over the older one. The process will work but there will be outdated and useless files left behind by the older Windows OS. This is yet another measure by Microsoft to halt piracy of their software.

RadarSync Your Source of Drivers for Windows Vista

RadarSync Your Source of Drivers for Windows Vista

As many of you know, Microsoft's latest operating system Windows Vista is scheduled to be released tomorrow, January 30th, 2007. But an operating system without drivers is worthless which RadarSync is so important. RadarSync is your one stop spot for getting all your Vista ready drivers - or at least most of them. The list is updated regularly. And, best of all, it is absolutely free.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Anti-Spyware Rival Slams Microsoft's Windows Defender, Vista

Anti-Spyware Rival Slams Microsoft's Windows Defender, Vista - News by InformationWeek

Gerhard Eschelbeck, Webroot's Chief Technical Officer, has anything but praise for Windows Defender, Microsoft's antispyware application. Instead, Eschelbeck accuses Windows Defender of being a poor tool for detection and removal of spyware. He claims Windows Defender suffers from infrequent signature updates - once every week - and fails to detect 84% of known spyware. As a result, Windows Defender users are given a false sense of security. But it is likely there is a conflict of interest. As many of you know, Microsoft plans to include Windows Defender in Windows Vista, its latest operating system . In addition, Windows Defender is already available for free to Windows XP users who have gone through their WGA validation process. This poses a threat to security software makers since many computer users would rather use the free Windows Defender than have to spend money to buy one. As you know, Webroot's cash cow is Spy Sweeper. It is easy to see why Eschelbeck would want to criticize Windows Defender.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Google's anti-phishing plugin leaked passwords

Google's anti-phishing plugin leaked passwords

Hard to believe but Google's anti phishing plugin for Firefox leaks both e-mail addresses and passwords. The flaw lies in how Google generates its blasklist of phish websites. When a phish website is submitted to Google's server, embedded within the URL are e-mail addresses and passwords. Since this list is public, anyone can view the addresses and password. The flaw was discovered by web security provider Finjan Inc. The company quickly contacted Google about the flaw. Google has since fixed the problem.

Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor

Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor

As Microsoft newest operating system, Windows Vista, is about to be rolled out to the public, Microsoft has released Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. Windows Vista Upgrade is a free download. It is a small utility which scans a computer to check to see if it is compatible with Windows Vista. As many of you know, Windows Vista requires a great deal more hardware than previous Windows versions. Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor not only scans the hardware but the software as well. It scans to check if already installed programs and drivers will work after making the switch. In addition, it even helps you pick with version of Windows Vista is best for your needs.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Review: Six Rootkit Detectors Protect Your System

Review: Six Rootkit Detectors Protect Your System

Serdar Yegulalp, of InformationWeek, has written a fine review of 6 "free" rootkit detection and removal utilities. Rootkits are a new form of malware which has proven to be incredibly hard to remove. Rootkits install themselves deep within Windows system core making them difficult to detect. The rootkit itself is not the greatest danger; instead, it is its ability to hide other malware which makes it a big threat. Think of it as a one - two punch. The rootkit hides spyware - any many other form of malware - from detection by spyware scanners, allowing it to work freely. For a more in depth look at the dangers of rootkits, read PC World Magazine's article on the subject.

The rootkits detectors mentioned in the article fall in to 2 categories, free for life and free only during the beta testing phase. Many security software vendors are adding rootkit detection to their own all in one Internet security suites. I was surprised the review article left out other rootkit detectors which have been available for some time. Below, I have included a short list of other rootkit detectors available for free download.

  1. BitDefender Rootkit Uncover (registration required)
  2. McAfee Rootkit Detective (a.k.a. Stinger)
  3. Sophos Anti Rootkit
  4. Trend Micro Rootkit Buster

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Decrease the amount of resources Ad Aware and Spybot use during scanning

All computer users should have a antivirus and anti spyware application installed on their computers. Unfortunately, many of you might have noticed that they can be computer resource hogs. It is not uncommon for them to use >95% of the CPU. Recently, I came across a tweak from Tech-Recipe website which described how to decrease Lavasoft's Ad Aware Personal Edition, a very popular free anti spyware scanner, CPU usage. Below, I have reproduced the steps for this tweak:

  1. Open Ad-Aware and click on the Gear button to open the Configuration Window.

  2. Click the Tweak on the bottom of the left column.

  3. Click the + next to Scanning Engine.

  4. Click the x next to Run scan as background process (Low CPU usage) to change it to a checkmark.

  5. Click the Proceed button to save your settings.

  6. Close Ad Aware

After reading the article, I wondered if the same tweak could be performed in Spybot Search & Destroy, another very popular free anti spyware scanner. I discovered it was quite easy to apply the same tweak. Below, I have listed the step for this tweaks:
  1. Open Spybot Search & Destroy.

  2. Make sure you are using the advanced mode. On the menu bar, click Mode and make sure Advanced mode is selected.

  3. Click [Settings].

  4. On the new window, click [Settings].

  5. Scroll down to Scan Priority and select Lowest.

  6. Close Spybot Search & Destroy.

Monday, January 15, 2007

PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition - Virus, Trojan & Worm Protection

PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition - Virus, Trojan & Worm Protection

PC Tools, maker of the popular anti spyware scanner Spyware Doctor, has released free versions of its antivirus scanner and firewall. In a not so surprising move, PC Tools tries to expand in to the security software market. More and more, security software makers are developing all in one security solutions. PC Tools doesn't want to be left out. However, PC Tools has a tough road ahead of it. Companies like Symantec and McAfee are well established and it would be difficult for PC Tools to get a foothold in an already tight market. In addition, this might be a case of PC Tools trying to be a "Jack of All Trades" but end up being a "Master of None." I am eager for security experts to test out these new products.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Internet Explorer 7 a major improvement but still lacking some features

Don’t get me wrong. I agree Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7) is a vast improvement over its predecessor but I still feel that Microsoft failed to include what I consider some essential features – many features found in its competitors. When I say competitors, I am referring to Mozilla’s Firefox and Opera web browser. Here are some things I would have wanted to see included in IE 7, including: ad blocking, download manager, spell checker and mouse gestures.

I understand that many websites host ads in order to support themselves. But, I am not very fond of viewing a website where 50% of the screen is filled with flash animation, sponsor links, marquees and ads for Viagra. At best, it clutters the webpage and, at worst, a visitor might inadvertently click on a sponsor link which leads them to a drive by download site. There are a number of free third party software which adds content blocking. I recommend CyberGuard’s Webwasher Classic. Webwasher cleans a webpage of its banners, animations, scripts and popup windows. As an added bonus it provides excellent cookie management – users can filter out third party cookies. There are other free add-ons, including: IE7Pro and Reify’s Turnabout. Both of these products integrate themselves in to IE 7 and add itself to the menu bar.

Have you ever started a download and, just as it was 99% completed, you lost the connection to the Internet? You ended up losing everything and having to start from scratch. Well, you don’t ever have to suffer this tragedy again. Download managers can speed up downloads as well as resume downloads which were inadvertently disconnected. Both Firefox and Opera come with their own download managers. In addition, both web browsers can enhance their download managers with add-on (e.g. Firefox’s FlashGot extension). Internet Explorer 7 does not have its own download manager but there are a number of free download managers which can integrate themselves in to IE 7. Even better, most of them have click tracking. By just clicking on a download link, the download manager automatically launches and begins downloading. I recommend using Free Download Manager, a free third party add-on with no adware or any other non sense. Other good alternatives include: LeechGet, GetRight and WellGet. Both LeechGet and WellGet are freeware while GetRight is shareware. WellGet is no longer being developed.

I think many web users under appreciate the value of a good spell checker. It comes in handy when you want to write a comment for a post or write a message. Firefox 2.0 is the first version to offer an integrated spell checker. In the case of IE 7, users can install ieSpell, a free add-on which provides spell checking just a click away.

Mouse gestures allow a user to navigate the web without using the navigation toolbar. Usually, a user holds down a predefine mouse button and drags the mouse. For example, holding down the right mouse button and dragging to the left reloads the previous webpage. Another example, holding down the right mouse button and drawing a line through a link opens the link in a new tab. Both Firefox and Opera have a mouse gesture feature. In Firefox, you need to add the mouse gestures extension while Opera has one built in. IE 7 users can also enjoy the benefits of mouse gestures by using Unhsolution’s Easy Go Back.

IE 7 has a decent RSS reader but users can install Windows Live toolbar which adds greater RSS feed discovery and management. In addition, Windows Live toolbar has a decent auto form filler. My favorite Windows Live add-on is Onfolio; it allows users to save cache copies of web content on to the hard drive for offline viewing. Users can create folders to organize these “clippings.”

In conclusion, IE 7 is a vast improvement over IE 6 – it only took Microsoft 5 years to develop – but there is room for improvement. There are a number of third party add-ons which can improve on an already decent web browser.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Apple Seeks To Muscle Into Telecom With iPod Phone

Apple Seeks to Muscle Into Telecom With iPod Phone

Today, at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs wowed the crowds with announcement of the new iPod Smart Phone and Apple TV. The iPod phone is to offer "a device that will make calls, surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail, and -- naturally -- play music and video downloaded from Apple's iTunes Store." As for Apple TV, it will stream video files from iTunes to a television set wirelessly. And, to top it off, Apple Computer's Inc. has changed its name to "Apple Inc." The name change is to signify that Apple has moved beyond just developing computers. After the announcements, Apple's share price soared to an all time high of $92.57/share (up 8.3%).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Eight Patches To Ring in New Year 2007

Eight Patches To Ring in New York 2007

Next week Tuesday, Microsoft will be releasing 8 patches which address vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, Visual Studios and Windows. At least one of the patches for Microsoft Office is expected to address some of the zero-day attack threats. A new Malicious Software Removal Tool will also be available.

Cancer cure patented

Cancer cure patented

I think it is premature to say that the drug will cure cancer. However, the research done so far is very promising. Unlike contemporary cancer drugs, this new drug targets cancer cells and not healthy cells. Contemporary drugs are not very selective, they will attack both cancer cells and healthy cells alike. The research is in the very early stages. If it indeeds becomes a viable drug against cancer, it will not be on pharmacy shelves for another decade.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Take control of your browsing time with Browser Timer

Take control of your browsing time with Browser Timer

Now, here is something interesting. Are you addicted to the Internet? Be honest now. Well, if you want to cut down on the amount of time you spend on the Internet then Browser Timer might be your salvations. Set an amount of time you want to spend on the Internet and Browser Timer will do the rest. Once the elapse time has expired, Browser Timer will kick you off the Internet.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Receive Digg Stories in Your E-mail Inbox

Receive Digg Stories in Your E-mail Inbox

When it comes to social bookmarking websites, Digg sets the standard whereby all other websites are compared. Digg is a dynamic website where stories are constantly changing. But, for many of us, we can't spend all our time on Digg. Unfortunately, the latter means we sometimes miss stories which we are interested in. Wouldn't it be great if we could receive alerts on stories we are interested in from Digg? Well, you can.

In order to accomplish this, you need to setup a custom search in Digg and use a service called R-Mail. Starting on Digg's website, run a search on a topic of interest to you. For example, I ran a search for "Thunderbird." Digg will display the most recent submitted stories on Thunderbird. But, more importantly, Digg also generates a RSS feed for the search. This is commonly called a "persistent search." Everytime a story, which mentions Thunderbird, is submitted, the RSS feed gets updated. Now, if you could somehow have the RSS feed sent to your e-mail inbox, you could be automatically alerted to submitted stories you are interested in. There wouldn't be a need for you to stand watch over Digg's website, waiting to see if something shows up. There are a number of services which forward RSS feeds to e-mail. I find R-Mail to be one of the more easy service to setup.

Once you have copied the link for the RSS feed, go to R-Mail's website. Under RSS, enter the link. For my search for "Thunderbird," I enter this link. Under it, enter your e-mail address.

Once you are done, click [Subscribe]. You will receive a confirmation message. Within the e-mail, there will be a link to start the subscription and another link to unsubscribe - don't get them mixed up. You are all set!