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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

My Top 15 Free Windows Programs for 2008

Inspired by the post at Lifehacker, and, since it's been a while since I've written up a top-list, here is my top 15 list of free Windows programs.

In no particular order:

Firefox 3 - the latest version of Firefox is fast and very secure and remains the best with extensions of all the browsers

AVG Free 8 - anti-virus and anti-spyware, and much improved since it first came out. Easy to use and works better than the big programs that must be purchased.

7zip - decompression and compression of many many compression formats, and free!

Foxit PDF reader - now works directly inside a Firefox tab as well as on its own. Faster and with a much smaller footprint than Adobe Reader. They keep making this better with every version

Crossloop - for remote connections with clients for help/repair - free and very simple to use

Shutdown Guard - for stopping Windows Updates from automatically restarting your computer (XP and Vista)

Winamp - best free media player overall - yes it has playlists and you can use it with your ipod or any other MP3 player. Works better than iTunes and doesn't install other programs behind your back, and you can customize its many settings (file formats to deal with, whether it launches on its own or by your command...)

Quicktime Alternative - streamlined and unobtrusive version of Quicktime

Realplayer Alternative - streamlined and unobtrusive version of Realplayer

Open Office 3 - the best free alternative to MS Office. And it can open .docx files now. You can create a PDF directly from any of the programs in the suite with a click of an icon. Word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program, database, you can make it save things in MS Office format by default if you need to share documents with others have MS Office, and more.

Thunderbird - excellent email program from Mozilla (same group that brings you Firefox). I find this much easier to customize and to backup and move files around when need be than Outlook or Outlook Express.

Picasa - a good, free program from Google for viewing, sorting and editing your photos and more

Superantispyware - A great 2nd program for manually scanning your computer after AVG Free 8 to catch and fix anything that might have been missed. I like this better than Ad Aware and Spybot put together.

CCleaner - great for cleaning up temp files, temp files leftover from crashes, and cleaning up the Registry and more.

Cobain Backup - a free backup program that you can fully customize - scheduling, backing up to various drives including network drives, etc.


Got any favourite free programs I left out? Add them in comments.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Asus laptop built-in webcam upside down

I use an Asus laptop. My built-in webcam was working fine until recently. Now it shows upside down. I had recently updated a lot of drivers. So, I rolled back the driver (Control Panel\Device Manager\Imaging devices... and it works properly now.)
I am using Windows Vista.
If you are having a similar problem in Windows XP with a built-in webcam on an Asus laptop, try rolling back the driver.

I found a lot of info relating to this problem on Linux, and the solution there was to re-program something.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Security flaw in Internet Explorer has experts recommending alternative browsers

BBC NEWS | Technology | Serious security flaw found in IE

Switch to Firefox 3 for a safer, faster and more enriched browsing experience.

The flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer could allow criminals to
take control of people's computers and steal their passwords, internet
experts say.

Microsoft urged people to be vigilant while it investigated and prepared an emergency patch to resolve it.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

More on the Koobface virus

The Facebook Virus Spreads: No Social Network is Safe - ReadWriteWeb

Play it smart. Keep your anti-virus software up to date. Don't click on fake messages like You look just awesome in this new movie.
And don't install the Flash plug-in from anything but the Adobe Flash site.

For more details, click on the link.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A new Facebook virus to watch out for

Facebook hit by virus - The INQUIRER

Koobface spreads by sending notes to friends of someone whose PC has been
infected.



The messages, with subject headers like, "You look just awesome in this new
movie," direct victims to a third-party site where they are asked to download
what it claims is an update of Adobe's Flash player.



Downloading the software means that users end up with an infected computer,
which then takes users to contaminated sites when they try to use search engines
from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Live.com, according McAfee.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Sumo Paint - Free on-line just-like-Photoshop program

Sumo Paint
Is an on-line program very very similar to Photoshop.

Handy if you need this and you don't have and can't afford Photoshop.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Foxit Reader 3 out. New and improved

Foxit Software

Foxit Reader 3.0 is out now. Alongwith numerous improvements is the fact that it now supports Firefox - so you can click on a PDF and have it open in the tab instead of opening in the Foxit program outside Firefox)

However, in order to keep using some of the other useful features, you have to install the Ask Toolbar. To install the new Foxit Reader without having this toolbar running:
- Download the installer file from the link above
- Close your browsers
- Run the file and choose Custom
- When you get to the part about the toolbar, Un-check the point about making Ask your home page.
- Finish the installation and close Foxit (if you let it open)
- Open each browser and disable the toolbar it added (it will still be installed, but it won't be there taking up space and resources in your browser)
- Done.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Bell can squeeze the bandwidth.

TheStar.com | Business | Bell can squeeze downloads, CRTC rules

With this CRTC ruling, it pays to do your homework and find out if that different Internet Service Provider is using Bell or not, before you switch to them for a lower rate. If they do use Bell, this means that you might be paying for a lemon  - your bandwidth will be much lower than what you mean to pay for. Remember, ISPs offer you an "up-to" speed, not a minimum.

So far, in my experience, and in the experience of friends and clients, Rogers seems to be more reliable and seems to do less bandwidth squeezing of customers, than Bell Sympatico in their Internet service. And, for home land line telephone service, Bell seems to be more reliable.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Stop automatic Windows restart

shutdownguard - Google Code

Here's a little program I just discovered via Lifehacker. It is supposed to stop Windows from automatically restarting after updates.

I'll check it out and get back to you about it (sometime in December, after the next Windows update). I'm testing it in XP and Vista.

UPDATE
It works! In Vista and XP.
It stops Windows Updates from automatically restarting.
In XP, if you want to re-start or shutdown your computer, you have to exit shutdownguard first (as it won't let you shut down Windows)

Updated instructions:
Download the file (see link above)
Copy to Program Files.
Run.
Right-click system tray icon
Autostart
Check off Autostart.
Make sure you Enable it.

Next time Winows update wants to restart after an update, the Restart Your Computer To Finish Installing Updates window will pop up to give you the choice of Restart Now, or Postpone, and a Remind Me in xx minutes.
Usually, if you are away from your computer, Windows will automatically restart in 10 minutes.
With Shutdown Guard running and enabled, this window stays up and the computer does not restart. So, when you come back to your computer, everything is still there and you can choose when to restart the computer (you can leave this pop-up window open in the background and when you are finished your work, restart the computer when YOU want to.)
In XP, it will keep popping up with the Restart/Later window every 10 minutes, but it won't restart your computer automatically.

Note. You should restart it soon though as the updates are usually security related. I would start it less than a day after this pops up - preferably within a few hours.





Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Beware more Facebook email scams

Nigerian scammers penetrate Facebook - The INQUIRER

The latest trick is to send an email from a friend claiming to be stranded
in Lagos, Nigeria and ask for $500 for a ticket home.



Many users totally fail to recognise the fact that their "friends" have lost
total command of the English language.


Saturday, 8 November 2008

New threat via Facebook

Facebook Users Attacked by Trojan Virus :: Schipul Blog

There is a new threat via Facebook (see above link).

If you get an odd message from a friend (okay, not like the usual odd messages your friend sends you, a message like in the article in the link above), they may have been infected. Send your friend a new message informing them that you got the odd message and that they may be infected.

If you use Facebook, keep an eye out for computer threats (viruses, spyware, etc) all the time in the form of the various messages and emails you can get from using it. And, if you ever go to a site that tries to get you to download and install some weird program or codec to play some music or a video, do NOT download and install it. If it says you need Java, or Flash or such, go to those actual sites and get them from the real sites for these plug-ins. If you already have these plug-ins installed and the video or whatever does not work, then it is not supposed to (they are just trying to get you to infect your computer). YouTube videos use Adobe Flash to run. If you can go to the YouTube site and watch a video, then you have Adobe Flash installed and working, and the odd site you went to that doesn't work is bad news - close the site and don't go back to it.

If you do get infected, you should be able to clean out the infection with a full scan by AVG Free 8 and/or Superantispyware.

Make Windows Live Hotmail your default email program in Windows Vista

If you use Windows Live Hotmail as your main email instead of Windows Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird or some other email program, and you want to make it come up as your default email program when you click on a mailto link, here is how to do it.

Go to this WinHelpOnline page, download the registerhm.zip file and follow the instructions under the Registering Hotmail with the Default Programs tool heading. It is very simple. This only works in Windows Vista (not Windows XP).
This utility can make it so Windows Live Mail comes up when you click on a mailto link, or want to send a link, when you press the mail button (if you have one) on your keyboard, or when you send an email directly from a program on your computer. In other words, it makes Windows Live Mail your default email program.

For Windows XP, check out the instructions here.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

AVG Free 8 - remove annoying pop-ups when not connecting to the server

If you cannot connect to the server to update, and you are getting constant annoying pop-ups related to this, here is how to turn them off:

Open AVG
Click on Tools
Click on the little + sign beside Schedules
Click on Virus Database update schedule
UNcheck "Run the update again as soon as the internet connection is available"
Click on Program Update Schedule
UNcheck "Run the update again as soon as the internet connection is available"
Now click on the Apply button, OK, and close the AVG window.
The constant pop-ups should be gone now.

See the previous post for how to manually update AVG Free 8 from files.

Manually update AVG Free 8

AVG Free - Download update


If your AVG Free 8 is having trouble connecting to their server to update itself, AND, you can manage to access this update site, then you can update it manually via the avaialable update files.

Go to this page.
Scroll to the bottom.
Click on each item that you have missed by date and save to your hard drive.
Open AVG Free 8.
Click on Tools.
Choose Update by directory, then point it to the directory where you saved these files.

Now you will be up to date. Ignore any further pop-ups today that say that AVG cannot connect, and ignore the red circle with the exclamation mark on the AVG icon in the system tray. You are still protected and up to date.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Windows Vista SP2 details

Details on Windows Vista SP2 emerge

2 items that should be interesting are:

Windows Connect Now (WCN), a new tool to assist in connecting to Wi-Fi networks.
and
Improved support for resuming with active Wi-Fi connections.

I think the Wi-Fi connection interface is fairly good now, but I'm always open to improvements.
And for the 2nd item, many clients I know have issues with reconnecting after temporarily losing a wi-fi connection. An improvement in this area would be very welcome.

SP2 is expected to be ready for final release sometime in the first half of 2009.

Friday, 24 October 2008

AVG "Invalid Update Control CTF File" fix

Error "Invalid Update Control CTF File" when updating AVG Anti-Virus 8.0 - The Winhelponline Blog

There are 2 files that can be deleted as AVG will recreate them. If they become corrupted you will have to remove them manually.

In Windows XP, go to:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Avg8\update\download
and delete
avginfoavi.ctf and avginfowin.ctf

In Windows Vista, go to:
C:\ProgramData\avg8\update\download
and delete these 2 same files.

Re-run the update.
Fixed.

UPDATE
To be able to see the CTF files, you need to have Show Hidden Files enabled in Explorer. Open Windows Explorer, click on Tools, Folder Options, View, and check off show hidden files and folders. Now you should be able to see the CTF files.

UPDATE 2
If this doesn't work, uninstall AVG and re-install it.
Here is the link for the latest version.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Beware the fake security center

Two Good Looking Windows Security Centers: One Fake, One Real - CA Security Advisor Research Blog - CA
Another fake Windows Security Center has emerged. Much like versions in the past, on appearance this one is nearly identical to the actual Windows Security Center. And like older versions, it is installed by a trojan and falsely warns the user of non-existent infections (the true infection is the fake Security Center).

Monday, 13 October 2008

Open Office 3 is finally out!

They released the final version of Open Office 3 today (Oct. 13, 2008). If you didn't already know, it is a great, free, and open source alternative to MS Office.

Besides many other updates and improvements, it will open the new .docx files created in MS Office 2007. But, when saving, you will have to save to another format. You can choose .doc format, which Open Office and all versions of MS Office will recognize.

If you are new to this and want to give it a try, click on the link below to download it.

For those who already use Open Office, here is how to update:

To manually Update to Open Office 3
Download Open Office 3 from here. http://www.filehippo.com/download_openoffice/ (Oct 13 - the Open Office server may be down due to version 3 being downloaded by so many people all at once - it became available today. Download it from the Filehippo site for the time being). Click on Download Latest Version. If your popup blocker blocks it, click on the appropriate place to allow it to download.
Run the installer file when finished downloading
When installing, allow default settings and go through the prompts.
When finished installing, click on Start, All programs, find Open Office 3, click and drag the new Open Office Writer icon to the location you want it on the Start Menu. If you have an old Open Office Writer icon on the Start Menu, drag the new one to just above it. Once you have put the new one on above the old one, remove the old one from the list (right-click and remove).
Repeat this process for any other new Open Office shortcuts you want on the Start Menu.
Click on the new Open Office Writer icon to open Open Office Writer.
Click on Next until you get to the Registration screen. Check off I do not want to register (since you already have registered), and click on Finish. If it doesn't open full-screen, and you want it to, maximize it. Now close it. Right click on the Open Office 3.0 Quickstarter icon in the system tray (it appears after you first open Open Office Writer) and click on Load Open Office.org During System Start-up to UN-check it.
Right-click on the icon again and choose Exit.
Done.

UPDATE
Updating to version 3 will re-set your toolbars. So, if you did any customizing of them, you'll have to do that all over again.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Fake You Tube Pages used to spread viruses

Fake YouTube pages used to spread viruses
A program circulating online helps hackers build those fake pages. Users who follow an e-mail pointing them to one of the pages would see an error message that claims the video they want won't play without installing new software first. That error message includes a link the hacker has provided to a malicious program, which delivers a virus.

This has been happening for a while now, but it's still going on. The best thing to do is to NOT download the plugin/codec if a site tells you you need a special program or codec or plug-in to play the video from a site.

If you think you need special software, go to the actual site that distributes the real plug-ins needed. For most, there is Adobe Flash, Java, Quicktime (I recommend Quicktime Alternative) and Windows Media Player (here's the plug-in for Firefox).
If you are using Firefox 3, here is the link to download the Adobe Flash 10 beta (Windows Version). Version 10 works better for Firefox 3. And, sometimes you might need Real Player (I recommend the alternative version here).

Normally a site with a video embedded won't have a direct link to the above sites - the video space will be replaced with a notice that you need a plug-in to play the video. Fake sites will have direct links or pop-ups offering you a special plug-in. Don't be fooled. If you already have the plug-ins that I've mentioned above, and the video won't play, it is most likely fake so run away from the site.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Common mistakes that can lead to compromised security

ConsumerReports.org - Online blunders: common mistakes



This is a good article, but I've added some further advice below:



1. Assuming your security software is protecting you.

Ditch the trial security ware - it is usually one of the bloated
problematic ones like Norton or McAfee. Replace with a good light free
one like AVG Free 8. Updates for this are automatic and free - no
subscription required. AVG Free 8 also has an anti-spyware component.



4. Downloading Free Software

Don't, unless you know you are getting it from a reputable source. Use
Firefox 3 instead of Internet Explorer. Firefox 3 gets your antivirus
program to scan everything you download automatically. Superantispyware
is also a great free anti-spyware program to use for manual scans of
your computer or download folder.



5. Thninking your Mac shields you from all risks

Simple solution: sell your Mac, buy a PC. It is much less expensive for
the equivalent hardware setup, and the Windows operating system
actually works with hardware and software. And use Firefox and the
other above-mentioned security software.



6. Clicking on a pop-up ad that says your PC is insecure

Yes, click on the X to close this window - it is fake and wants to get
you to download a fake anti-virus program that will infect your
computer with nasty viruses and spyware.

Next, stop using Internet Explorer. Most of these pop-ups are written for Internet Explorer. Use Firefox 3 instead.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Get rid of nasty spyware

There have been some very nasty bits of spyware going around lately, more than ever. It's great that AVG Free 8 includes an anti-spyware component, but, it can't handle some of spyware threats.

One program that works well at removing spyware is this program - Superantispyware. I set it up to not run with Windows. I just use it as a manual scanner. If AVG Free 8 seems to have a problem removing some pesky spyware, run a scan with this program.

I used to use Ad Aware and Spybot, but this program, Superantispyware, seems to work much better - more thorough and has a larger database.

Note: make sure to turn your System Restore off first before running scans (and don't forget to turn it back on when you are done).

Here's the link:

SUPERAntiSpyware.com - AntiAdware, AntiSpyware, AntiMalware!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Best Mice/Trackballs


Mouse: The Best Mouse You've Ever Had

I've been using the Logitech Trackman Wheel for years now. I wouldn't trade it in for any other mouse/trackball.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Firefox 3, Flash Videos and Adblock

If you cannot see flash videos on some pages, but you can on others, and you are using Firefox 3 and you have Adblock installed, then the problem is Adblock.

For some reason, even if you disable Adblock temporarily or whitelist the page, it will still block some flash videos you want to see.

To fix this problem, install the extension Adblock Plus and uninstall Adblock.

UPDATE
To fix this I've found that there is a new Adobe Flash 10 beta version out that makes flash files work properly in Firefox 3. Download and install that if you are having problems with Flash in FF3. Here is the link for the Windows version.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

AVG Free 8 and No One Is Getting My Emails

If you are using the new AVG Free 8, and you are using Thunderbird or maybe even a version of Outlook or another Email program, and no one is receiving your emails even though it looks like they are sending okay, it may be a setting in your AVG. Open AVG, double-click on Email scanner, UNcheck Scan Outgoing mail, and Save Changes.

Now you can send emails again and people will receive them.

Test things out. If people can receive your emails now, then that was the problem. If not, it is something else...



Iphone upgrade doesn't work

Iphone upgrade doesn't work - The INQUIRER
"Currently users of the handset have to sit completely still when using Steve
Jobs' most brilliant dumping on users yet, otherwise they will be disconnected."

...
"
However the upgrade does not solve the problem. What it does is messes up the
GPS function and creates shedloads of others instead."

Beware the iPhone. There are lots of better and less expensive alternatives out there.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Windows XP and 2000 Security Update Conflicts with Zone Alarm and disconnects you from the Internet

Recent Windows XP and 2000 security patch KB951748 causes a problem with Zone Alarm so that you cannot connect to the Internet.
To fix the problem
Update Zone Alarm - they have fixed things on their end. Link at end of this post

Temporary fixes:
1) easy fix: Open Zone Alarm, click on Firewall, chose the Main Tab, and change the slider setting for Internet Security from High to Medium. Fixed.
2) If that didn't work, go to Add or Remove Programs, check of the Show Updates box. Scroll to the bottom and find KB951748 and remove it. Restart the computer. It should be fixed now

When you get time, if you have only done a temporary fix (in step 1 or 2 above), download the latest update for your version of Zone Alarm here
If you use the Free version, choose the link for Zone Alarm Basic Firewall. Download the file and then follow my latest instructions on updating Zone Alarm (in one of my previous posts).

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Direct Console MSNHOOK.dll fail

If you have an Asus notebook computer and you get this message, or ending in "failed to load", do not be alarmed.
What has happened is that with a new anti-spy-ware definition update, your anti-virus and/or anti-spy-ware program now thinks that this Asus notebook utility is a trojan (spy-ware).
To fix this you will need to go into your anti-virus/anti-spy-ware program and add the path to the Asus Direct Console folder, as well as the paths for LCMP.exe and MSNHOOK.dll to the exceptions.
After doing this, download the latest Direct Console (also goes by other names like Direct Messaging...) version from the appropriate Asus site and do a repair install to put the msnhook.dll file back (or just restore it from the virus vault). Reboot and the message should be gone and Direct Console should be running and properly functioning.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Facebook Firefox Issue

If you are having problems with Poke-o-matic or the Facebook Refresh script, or Facebook pages not loading when you click on them, either while in Firefox 2 or 3, I think I've found the problem. It has to do with Adblock and possibly Adblock Plus if you use that instead.
To solve the problem
• Log into Facebook
• Right-click on Adblock and choose to Whitelist the whole site.
Now things in Facebook should work fine. Hopefully, the makers of Adblock and Adblock Plus can fix this issue in the near future.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Firefox 3 June 17th

Firefox 3, final version, will be out June 17.
If you don't use many extensions and/or themes, and you are running Windows 2000, XP or Vista, go ahead and download and install it.

If you are running an older version of Windows, you won't be able to use Firefox 3.

If you do use a lot of extensions/add-ons, then you might want to wait until your favourites are updated to run on Firefox 3 (unless you know how to hack an extension to change its maximum version setting)


There are lots of improvements in the new version of Firefox, especially improved performance and memory handling.

UPDATE
There are many extensions that have NOT yet been updated to work in Firefox 3. So, my advice is to check the add-ons page first to see if the extensions in questions have been updated or not for version 3. There are a few things about version 3 that are quite different, so, if you hack the max version in the code for the extension, it still might not work properly.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Security Threats Through Adobe

Many security threats use Adobe Flash and Adobe Acrobat Reader to run on your computer.
Here is a recent article about this.

To minimize your risk, keep Adobe Flash updated.
In IE, type in Adobe Flash in the search bar/field, and install it. Make sure to UN-check Google Toolbar if you don't want it (I recommend NOT using the Google Toolbar).
In Firefox, type in Adobe Flash in the search bar/field and download the installer. Close Firefox and run the installer. You may have to run the installer a couple of times to get it to properly install.

Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Remove this program and install Foxit instead.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

AVG Free - new version 8 available

The new version of AVG Free is available. Download it from here.

The new version has an improved interface, and integrates anti-spyware, as well as a Security Toolbar for IE and Firefox browsers, and a Link Scanner - all additional protection.

Installation notes:
Close other programs before installing.
Choose to let it automatically uninstall version 7.
Choose custom install.

Now, here are a couple of things you need to choose from:
1) if you find you end up with spyware and viruses on your computer occasionally or often, then you should install the Security Toolbar and leave the Link Scanner on.
2) if you are very careful and find you manage to not end up with spyware and or viruses on your computer, and you would prefer to continue to have your browser and internet speed perform as fast as possible, then do not install the Security Toolbar and turn off the Link Scanner.

Choose to install the Security Toolbar, or not.
Disable daily scanning (as this will slow things down every day - but remember to run a full system scan every once in a while).
Next, etc, ..... Finish
Allow Prevalance Reporter to access the internet (if your firewall asks).
Reboot
Update
Allow AVG updater to access the internet (if your firewall asks).
If you have decided you don't want Link Scanner running, you can turn if off now.

I am going to test having the Link Scanner enabled for a while to see if it slows things down much or not. I'll post my results in here in an update.


UPDATE
The Link Scanner does slow down the browser some, annoyingly slow at times. So, I've decided to remove it. To manually remove it and the security toolbar:
To install without the browser toolbar or the link scanner, or, to remove these if already installed:
Put installation file in root of C:
run:
c:\avg_free_stf_*.exe /REMOVE_FEATURE fea_AVG_SafeSurf /REMOVE_FEATURE fea_AVG_SafeSearch
Choose Repair if already installed and just removing the features.

Note: replace the * with the rest of the file name.

Another blog, Grand Stream Dreams has a great detailed review for advanced users.

UPDATE 2
I've found that after a while the Link Scanner does not slow things so much, so, you can leave it on.

To have the updates fully automatic, open AVG, click on Tools, Advanced settings, Schedules, Virus Database Update Schedule. Make sure the last 4 check boxes are checked off. Go to Program Update Schedule and make sure the last 4 check boxes are also checked off.

To configure the Email Scanner so it does not mark your messages, click on Email Scanner (in Tools, Advanced Settings) and make sure Check incoming and check outgoing are checked off, then UNcheck Certify email below each. Apply

To keep AVG from running an automatic scan every day, in Advanced, Tools, Schedules, Scheduled Scan, UNcheck Enable This Task.


UPDATE 3
I've found that you can install AVG Free 8 normally, and then if you don't want the Security Bar or the Link scanner features, you can disable them in the browser instead of repair installing and typing in all that stuff in Run.

To do this in IE - go to Tools, Manage Add-ons, and Enable or Disable Add-ons.
To do this in Firefox - go to Tools, and Add-ons.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Beware Unknown Audio and Video Codecs - Spyware Infested

How did I get infected in the first place?
I've been seeing more and more people in my line of work with serious spyware infestations. One of the main ways that you can get things like Smitfraud-C, Spylocked, Vundo, Virtumonde and their variations is to download suspicious codecs to supposedly get an on-line video or song to play. Another way is to download and install some sort of software that claims to be a security or system repair program. Most of these are actually spyware or some other nasty thing. Also, if you are using a peer to peer program like Kazaa, Bearshare, Limewire, etc to download music and other files, you need to be careful with the files once you have them. They could contain viruses or spyware or both. Scan them before you open them.

How Do I Keep From Getting Infected?
Heed all of the above. And research something new before downloading and installing it. When in doubt, ask a professional who knows about these things.
Keep your operating system up to date with all the updates that come up. Most of these updates patch security holes that the threats use to get into things and mess things up.
Keep your Java and Adobe Flash up to date. (and manually remove old versions of Java after updating)
Keep your Antivirus program up to date.
Keep your anti-spyware program up to date.
Don't have more than one antivirus program running at one time.
Run a full system scan for viruses and another for spyware regularly, or whenever you think you might have something.
And don't use Internet Explorer. Most threats written to mess up your browser, are written for IE. Use Firefox instead.



Windows Vista - Service Pack 1 - All Good

It's been weeks now since I installed SP1 for Vista. My computer works much better now. No crashes at all and programs start quicker and transfers are faster.

But, before you rush out and install SP1 (if you haven't yet) you need to take some things into consideration.
- If you have a new computer that runs Vista well, make sure you update your motherboard and other hardware drivers first
- If you have an older computer that does not run Vista well, you may encounter problems. Do research first on your particular hardware and SP1.
- If you are running old programs (more than a few years old), you may encounter problems. Research your programs and Vista before applying SP1


I do run some old programs, but they work fine in Vista with SP1.
I've also found that SP1 fixes some previously buggy Windows Updates and fixes the problems they created.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Zone Alarm Free firewall - Major Update Is Ready - 70_470_000

Another Zone Alarm Free Firewall major update is available. To download and install, follow the same instructions as last time - link to previous update post.
It should be pretty much the same. The new file you are downloading to install should be 70_470_000
Make sure to UNcheck the option for installing Zone Alarm Spyblocker (and any other extra thing they may add on).

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Windows Vista SP1 - So Far So Good

I installed Windows Vista SP1 today. I ran Windows Update to get it (this is the recommended method of getting and installing Vista SP1). It is about 66 MB.

Before you download/install this, you should close any programs you have open and not use your computer for anything during the next hour (besides installing this update). You will need to be around during the whole process as you will have to click on a couple of things that come up.

First it downloads.
Then installs.
Then, during the reboot process it goes through 3 more stages of installation.
After rebooting, my wireless connection was not fully connecting. I had to reboot 3 more times to have my wireless connection working fully automatic again.

Also, after installing, something called Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program (aka Windows SQM Consolidator, aka wsqmcons.exe) is now running in the System tray. To deal with this, open it from the system tray icon. If you want to join, choose Join, and okay. If you don't want to join, check Join, then check I Don't Want To ... (you have to do this to un-grey the Okay button), and then click on Okay. To then remove the process, press Shift+Ctrl+ESC to bring up the Task Manager, look at Processes and find it and kill it. When you reboot it should not re-appear.

Everything seems fine after those two issues. Now, to see if it fixes the glitch of the updates that came in a while ago that conflict with drivers and cause my computer to crash once a day.


UPDATE
A couple of days later, this is what I've noticed:
- hasn't crashed (which is better than crashing every day or two)
- smooth and less buggy
- programs seem to load quicker
- touchpad settings keep reverting to default after restarting. This is an annoying problem that I had when I originally set this up, but I solved it by re-installing the Setpoint software from Logitech for the mouse I use via USB port occasionally. I haven't figured out how to make the touchpad settings stay since SP1.
- otherwise, all good. I recommend installing SP1 (but make sure to update all drivers first).
-

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Toronto Island weather page and Firefox

If you have the Toronto Island weather set up as your home page, and you are using an extension called Remove It Permanently in Firefox, and you have removed some items in the past, as of Feb 20, 2008, the page has changed so that you might not be able to see the page properly. If you can't see it properly, open up R.I.P. and remove the last two items you added for this page and then reload the page. You should now be able to see the page properly.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Facebook - Improve Interface

I've been using Facebook for about a year now. Besides the ever-growing annoyance of useless application invitations, there are a couple of basic things that became annoying: The fact that you have to manually refresh the page all the time to see new info (pokes, messages, etc). And, pokes - having to manually poke each one if you have a lot of pokes piled up.

Finding solutions to problems like this was much easier than I thought it would be. I googled and found something that automatically refreshes your Facebook page every 30 seconds, and something that gives you a "poke all" button below your pokes.

To use these features:
1) Install Greasemonkey (an add-on for your browser that lets you install and run special Javascripts)
Greasemonkey for Firefox
Greasemonkey for IE

2) Install Facebook Refresh
click on the Install This Script button in the upper right corner

3) Install Facebook Poke O Matic
and click on the Install This Script button in the upper right corner



Note: I use Firefox. Things might work differently in IE.