Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Today, in response to growing concern that the United States' economy is heading towards a recession, the Federal Reserve lowered 2 key interest rates, the federal funds rate and the discount rate, both by three-quarters of a point. This is the first major cut made by the Federal Reserve for the year of 2008.
The interest rate cuts did manage to stave off a large drop in the U.S. Stock Market, where the Dow Jones Industrial dropped 400 points before the rate cuts were announced. The rate cuts will not be enough for the U.S. economy to recover. However, in combination with the propose tax rebate and other initiatives called by President George Bush to revitalize the economy might be enough to save it.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Netflix Now Offers Subscribers Unlimited Streaming of Movies and TV Shows on Their PCs for Same Monthly Fee
Several months ago, Netflix started offering to their customers free their "Watch Now" service. With the "Watch Now" services, customers could watch streaming video on their PC's. The selection was limited to older and B-rated movies and T.V. shows. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful addition to Netflix online DVD rental service. At the time, customers received a limited number of hours for the streaming video service based on their online DVD rental plan they were enrolled in. For example, customers on Netflix's unlimited 3 DVD at a time plan, which costs $16.99, received 17 hours of free streaming video. That was then.
Now, Netflix is offering unlimited access to their video streaming service to all their customers enrolled in their unlimited DVD rental plan. Translation, customers can watch as many hours as they like for free. Customers belonging to Netflix's limited 1 DVD at a time with 2 DVD maximum per month plan are not eligible for this offer. The one thing which would make this offer even sweeter is if Netflix offer a greater selection of content. I expect Netflix to do so soon.
Try Avira's Antivir Personal Edition Antivirus Premium Free Through Dennis Publication Special
Antivir Antivirus Personal Edition, which is free for personal non-commercial use, is one of my favorite antivirus applications - AVG and Avast Antivirus are the other 2. Antivir has a powerful scanning engine which scans for viruses, worms,Trojan Horses and rootkits. It also scans outgoing e-mail but not incoming e-mail. In addition, the free edition does not scan for spyware or adware. These features are only found in the premium paid version. In addition, the paid version uses a dedicate server for updates while the free edition uses a shared server which downloads updates at a snail pace. I use a fast DSL broadband connection and downloading via the free edition feels like downloading using a 56kps dial up connection. And, as an additional annoyance, after every update, Antivir displays an obnoxious splash screen urging users to upgrade to the paid version.
Thankfully, there is a bit of good news. For a limited time, you can enjoy a free 6 months trial of the premium paid edition. And, all you have to do is fill out a subscription form, which require a name and a valid e-mail address - you don't even need to use your real name or e-mail address. Once you have filled out the form, Avira will send you an email with an activation code and instructions on how to install Antivir. Save the activation code on to your hard drive. Download the premium edition off of Avira's server and start the installation process. During this process, you will be asked to browse to the location of the activation code. That's it. Update the signature database and you are ready to run your first scan.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Did you know that Windows Vista, by default, allots an obscene 15% of a computer's hard drive space to System Restore. So, for example, if you have a 200GB hard drive then 30GB is devoted to system restore. Who needs a 30GB system restore? It seems Microsoft doesn't seem to have too much confidence in the stability of its latest operating system. You can change the amount of space that's system restore uses; however, it is far from easy to do so. You will need an account with Administrator privileges and use the command line utility "vssadmin." Read MVP website's howto tutorial on how to use vssadmin.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Remove The Crapware Which Came With Your New Computer
Well, last week, I treated myself by buying a new laptop. For the most part, I am happy with my new Compaq Presario laptop. What I didn’t like was the collection of trialware, a.k.a. crapware, preinstalled on it. This isn’t a unique problem. Several computer vendors add trial software to their products. Why? For profit. Profit for them but not for you. What you can do is remove them. The first thing you can try is to see if the software program came with an uninstaller. In Windows XP and Vista, go to the Start Menu > All Programs > [Software Program] > Uninstall [Software Program]. If there isn’t an uninstaller, go to the Start Menu > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs…and find an entry for the software program you want to uninstall > [Remove] > [Restart]. If you don’t find an entry for the software program, all is not lost; you can try a standalone uninstaller program, like Total Uninstaller. Total Uninstaller scans the Windows Registry and files belonging to the software program and then removes them. It is by far the most elegant way to remove a software program. Other popular and effective software uninstallers include Tune-Up Utilities 2008, System Mechanic 7 and CCleaner. Nevertheless, there is a small chance that some stray registry keys and files will be left behind. You can use a registry cleaner to remove them but this isn’t absolutely needed. These stray registry keys rarely cause any problems.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Sphinx Software’s Vista Firewall Control
Microsoft touts Windows Vista as its latest and most secure operating system. Starting with Windows XP SP2, Microsoft has included a firewall which, by default, is enabled. While Windows XP’s firewall only monitors inbound Internet traffic, Windows Vista’s firewall monitors both incoming and outgoing Internet traffic. Windows Vista’s firewall is enabled by default. Windows Vista’s firewall isn’t the most user friendly application. In fact, it is downright impossible to customize. It does not allow users to set rules for traffic. Thankfully, there is a handy utility that can help, namely, Vista Firewall Control (VFC).
There is both a free and paid version of VFC. With the free VFC program, users can choose what type(s) of connections applications can make. For example, users can allow applications to make both types of connections, only one type of connections or block both. In addition, users can choose to apply it only once or apply it all the time. VFC doesn’t have all the bells and whistles found in other paid firewall programs; however, if you want to keep Windows Vista’s firewall then VFC can give you more control over the it. For those who want the bells and whistles, there are several free firewalls which support Windows Vista, such as: Comodo Firewall Pro, PC Tools Firewall Plus and ZoneAlarm.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Great Online Savings and CD Offers
The last quarter of 2007 has been particular rough on the U.S. economy. Several banks have lowered their interest rates on their products, including savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CD). For example, in the beginning of 2007, HSBC Bank offered their online savings account with an interest rage of 5.05%. After the mortgage market crash, the rate dropped to 4.50% and continued to fall to today's 4.25%. The Federal Treasury lowered interests rates but it did little to alleviate fears of a slowing economy. However, not all is lost. There are a number of decent investments.
Washington Mutual is still offering an online savings account with a 4.75% interest; however, you need to open a free checking account as well. The minimum deposit is $1.00. Washington Mutual is also offering an online 6 months CD with an interest rate of 5.10%. Minimum deposit is $1,000.
Countrywide Bank is also offering an online savings account with an interest rate of 5.25%; however, to get this rate there is a $10,000 minimum deposit. Countrywide Bank is also offering a 6 months CD with an interest rate of 5.45% with a minimum deposit of $10,000.
ING Direct is offering an online savings account with a more modest interest rate of 4.10%. There is a minimum deposit of $1.00. In addition, it is offering a 6 month CD with an interest rate of 4.70%.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
HSBC Bank Credit Card Anyone?
Well, the holidays are over and you are reeling from the small fortune you spent for holiday gifts. But, don’t panic. There is some good news on the horizon. HSBC Bank is offering a number of credit cards with a special 0% introductory APR for balance transfers and purchases for 12 months. In addition, during this introductory promotional period, there are no fees for balance transfers. And, of course, there are no annual fees. If you have outstanding balances on your current cards, why don’t you transfer them to a new HSBC credit card? You can avoid huge finance fees and, with the money, you save you can deposit it in to your interest bearing bank account(s). Personally, I calculate the total for my balance transfer then invest that amount in to a 1 year high-yield CD. At the end of the year, when the CD matures, I use the principle balance to pay off my HSBC credit card and I get to keep the interest. If these aren’t enough reasons to go ahead and apply for a HSBC credit card, here are some additional benefits:
Free online Bill Pay
Master RoadAssist® Roadside Service (1-800-MC-ASSIST)
MasterRental® Insurance Coverage
MasterCard Travel Assistance Services
24-hour toll-free assistance with lost or stolen cards, emergency card replacement and emergency cash advances
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Spyware Doctor Starter Edition
Threats to computer security have changed drastically in the past decade. While once the greatest threat to computers were viruses written by introverted teenagers seeking bragging rights, now, the greatest threat is spyware written by criminals for profit. For the most part, viruses are destructive. Spyware, by nature, seeks to steal information (e.g. user ids, passwords, account numbers…etc.). Optimally, any computer connected to the Internet should have a firewall, antivirus and anti spyware installed. That’s a lot of software but you don’t need to spend a ton of money to secure your computer. In fact, you don’t need to spend a dime. If you are looking for a good free anti spyware program, look no further. PC Tools offers a free version of its very popular and effective Spyware Doctor. Spyware Doctor has earned high honors from both PC World and PC Magazine.
While the commercial version of Spyware Doctor regularly sells for $29.95, Google Pack offers a starter edition of Spyware Doctor for free. The starter edition uses the same scanning engine as its big brother; however, it lacks a number of real time protection features. Specifically, the starter edition does not offer real time protection for web browsers, Windows processes, network connection and startup programs. In short, the starter edition does not monitor and block unwanted changes to browser settings, addition of new Windows processes, changes to network settings and addition of startup programs. However, it does offer real time protection for files. Still, even without these real time protection components, it does an outstanding job of detecting and removing both inactive and active spyware.
To download the starter edition, you have to go through Google Pack installer. On the main webpage, uncheck all items expect Spyware Doctor. Next, click [Download Google Pack]. When prompted, save the Google_Updater.exe file to your desktop or some other accessible location on your computer. When you are finish, double click the executable file to start the download process. Once you have successfully installed Spyware Doctor, you need to update its definitions. To do so, on the main menu, click [Smart Update]. The initial update can be long depending on your Internet connection. After the update, click [Start Scan] > select “Full Scan” > click [Scan Now]. Be sure to quarantine any suspicious files. Spyware Doctor, by default, will create a system restore prior to any removal. I highly recommend that you keep the default settings. To schedule a scan, click [Settings] > [Scheduled Tasks] > highlight a task and click [Edit] to edit a task or click [Add] to add a new task.
Of course, the starter edition’s main menu has a radio button to upgrade to the full commercial version. Still, I am happy that PC Tools didn’t make the upgrade button too conspicuous. For those who want additional protection to cover the areas which the starter edition lacks, I highly recommend Bill Studio’s Winpatrol. There is a free and paid version of Winpatrol. For most users, the free edition is just fine. Winpatrol will monitor any changes to browser settings, startup programs, Windows services, Windows processes and Hosts file. I use Winpatrol and I find it indispensible.