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Friday, 14 December 2007

Zone Alarm Free firewall - Major Update Is Ready Dec 2007

Time for another Zone Alarm free firewall major update.

Note: From what I can tell, this applies to Windows XP users. If you are using Windows Vista, the major update may have already installed itself automatically in the background (my Vista computer's Zone Alarm says it is up to date, and the version number is a higher number than this XP update for Zone Alarm).

Also, due to each system being somewhat different, the steps may vary slightly, but you should be able to follow these instructions on most systems.


Click here to open the PDF version of these instructions to print out.

"ZoneAlarm Service Agent
An important Security Update is available. ZoneAlarm is also now available for Windows Vista. Do you want to get the update now (recommended)?
Update Now
Remind me Later"

Click on OK

If you checked off Remind me later, you can also get the update by opening Zone Alarm, go to Overview and Preferences and click on Check for Update.

You will now be taken to the Update web site page.

On the far right-hand side of this page, there is a button - ZoneAlarm Firewall Update. Click on this.

It will change to a new page and a window will pop up giving you options of what to do with the file. Choose the Save To Disk (or Save, or Save As option - your browser will give you one of these options). On this window that popped up to enable you to save the file, the file should be
If it is not, you have clicked on the wrong thing and need to start over.

Save this file to a location on your hard drive (like My Documents, or My Documents\Program Archives\Zone Alarm Updates) where you will remember where you put it.

Once you have saved the file, find it and double-left-click on it to run it.

If you get a Security warning about running the file, click on RUN

"ZoneAlarm Installation
This program will install ZoneAlarm on your computer ..."

UNcheck "Include ZoneAlarm SpyBlocker, a free easy-to-use toolbar that protects you from dangerous spyware sites"

Click on Next.

"ZoneAlarm Registration
Please type your name...."
Your name should already be entered, so you don't need to enter it.
Leave the email line blank.

UNcheck "I want to register..." and
UNcheck "Inform me about ..."

Click on Next

"Upgrade or clean install"
Make sure Upgrade is checked and click on Next

"License Agreement"
Check off "I accept the terms..."
Click on Install.

Zone Alarm will now turn itself off (so you may see a red security shield appear on your system tray at the bottom of the screen - ignore this) and then update itself ("Installing...")

Then it will configure itself ("Configuring")

You may get this message popping up:
"Unable to connect to TrueVector Service - cannot configure access rules" Click OK
Then "Error Processing config file!" Click OK

"Zone Alarm Registration Survey"
Answer the survey questions.
Click on Finish.

"ZoneAlarm Setup - Installation is now complete. Do you want to start ZoneAlarm now?"
Click Yes.

"A Special Offer from ZoneAlarm
Try ZoneAlarm Security Suite free for 15 Days"
Click on NO THANKS

"Configuration Wizard
Welcome To ZoneAlarm
Safeguard your web surfing."
Scan my computer - leave this checked
Automatically configure my network settings - leave this checked.
Click on Next.

Scanning ... Please Stand by.
(it may take a while)

Scan Is Complete
ZoneAlarm is ready to protect you ...
Click Finish.

Restart Your Computer to Finish

Once your computer has restarted, you will see this pop up:

ZoneAlarm - Getting Started
How does ZoneAlarm protect me? ...

Click Finish (lower right)

Then Zone Alarm's program window will pop up. close this (X in the top right corner).


I write these instructions for clients, friends and family members. Everyone else is also welcome to them.
If anyone is having difficulty, I would be more than happy to help you remotely. Contact me via the contact info on my web site Thor Tech Support.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Zone Alarm Firewall Update Time Again

It's time for another major Zone Alarm program update.

Step-by-step instructions - very little thinking required.

To update:

Either say update now when the notice comes up or

Open Zone Alarm
Click on Overview, Preferences, Check for Updates and then okay when notice pops up.
Your browser will open to the update page.
On the right side of the page, click on Zone Alarm Firewall Update.
Save the file to a location of your choice on your hard drive, or to
My Documents\Program Archives\Zone Alarm (or something like that)
Close your browser

Run the program/file you downloaded.
Installation - Next
Type your name if there is nothing in the Name field, and un-check the 2 checked boxes and Next.
Check Upgrade if it is not already checked off. - Next.
Check off "I accept...", - Install.
.... wait ...
Zone Alarm Registration Survey - fill it out.
Installation is complete. Do you want to start Zone Alarm now? - Yes.
A Special Offer From Zone Alarm - No Thanks
Configuration Wizard - Scan My Computer - Next.
Scanning Is Complete. Zone Alarm is ready to protect you. - Finish.
Restart your computer to finish - ok.
... After restart:
Zone Alarm - Getting Started - click on Finish
X to close Zone Alarm.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Firefox and Vista and Firewalls

Zone Alarm has since fixed whatever bugs were it in that conflicted with Firefox and Thunderbird in Vista. No more crashes and freezes. Things work fine now.


If you are using Windows Vista, Zone Alarm and Firefox, and you can't connect to the Internet with Firefox (but you can with other programs), and Zone Alarm is not letting you configure Firefox, uninstall Zone Alarm and re-install it. This should fix the problem.

Original post:
There is a problem with the latest version of Firefox with some firewalls if you are using Windows Vista. The problem is that you can't connect with Firefox - the firewall blocks it and won't let you configure the controls to allow Firefox access. For a Norton firewall, you should be able to purge your firewall's program list, then do a scan for programs and it should work again. For Zone Alarm, it is a different matter.

Zone Alarm does not like Firefox in Windows Vista. It won't even let you add Firefox to the program list (if you have removed it to try to fix this problem). As a temporary work around, turn the Program Control off in Zone Alarm.

I'm going to try to totally uninstall Zone Alarm and re-install it to see if this works.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Using Hotmail in Thunderbird - Update

With the update of the Webmail-Hotmail extension to version 1.2.5, I found that I could no longer send mail with the settings below. After some experimentation, I found that you need to change one setting: in the options for the Webmail-Hotmail extension, in Accounts, Mode, change it from "Hotmail Live (new website)" to "WebDav". This seems to work.

Here is the definitive guide (with the current Hotmail site) for setting this up.

Note: the links to the extensions mentioned here are in my previous posts about Hotmail and Thunderbird.

1) make sure you have the latest version of Thunderbird
2) Install the extensions: Webmail, and Webmail-Hotmail (and make sure they are the latest versions)
3) Make sure you have updated your Hotmail to the new the new Hotmail Live (do so via the website if you haven't)
4) Set up the account in Thunderbird (don't worry if you have some settings wrong at first)
5) Open the options in the Webmail extension and ensure that the Pop (port 110) and SMTP (port 25) servers are enabled
6) Open the options in the Webmail-Hotmail extension and in Accounts, Mode, check off "Hotmail Live (new website)". Make your selections in the POP tab, and in the SMTP tab.
7) You are now ready to adjust your server settings.

Outgoing server: hotmail - localhost

Incoming server settings
Server name: localhost. Port: 110
Username: (your full hotmail address)
Security Settings: Never

Outgoing Server
Server name: localhost
port 25
User name:
TLS if available.


Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Firefox - Windows Media Player Plug-in

If you want to see embedded videos that use Windows Media Player, and you use Firefox, go to the Firefox Plug-ins page and install this plug-in. You might need to restart Firefox after to get it to work.


Zone Alarm free basic firewall
Watch for Zone Alarm to pop-up asking you to upgrade to the paid version. If you are happy with the basic free version, click No Thanks.

If you are looking to download the Zone Alarm free firewall fresh or for the first time, click on this link, download and run this file. It will ask whether you want to download the version for Vista or XP. Choose and then choose Download Only and browse to where you want to save it. Now you will have a copy of the full free version to install.

The latest version is 7.0.362.00

Windows Update
There are some new security updates. Download and install them and enjoy continued security.

Adobe Flash Player
There is an update for this as well. If you use another browser besides IE, like Firefox, make sure to go to the Adobe site, in Firefox, as well as in IE (even if you don't use IE, or don't use it very often) and update Flash for all your browsers. And, in IE, make sure to UNcheck the Google Toolbar download (as it is something that helps to slow down your browsing and it is semi-spyware).

Running these updates helps to keep your computer more secure. Old versions of browser plug-ins (like Flash, Java, Quicktime and Real Player), and media programs (Windows Media Player, WinAmp, etc) become security risks that allow viruses and such to activate on your computer. By updating these programs, you make it harder for viruses and such to mess up your computer.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Facebook Applications and Privacy

By default, when you add an application in Facebook, the privacy mode for the application is wide open so anyone can use it to contact you, Xme you, etc. This can result in strangers contacting you through your applications.

To fix this so the applications are more private - just for you and your friends - click on Privacy, Profile, scroll down to Applications In Your Profile, and change the settings for your applications to Only my Friends.

If you are advertising something in Marketplace, you will probably want to keep the privacy mode for this application set at All My Networks and All My Friends.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Thunderbird Update Out Now (

The latest update for Thunderbird 2 (Mozilla's email program - a great companion to Firefox) is out now. If you get the message asking to update it, definitely let it update itself.

Included in this update are some security fixes as well as a number of bug fixes.

One notable bug fix: If you had filters to tag mail that comes in, in Thunderbird 2 you had to run the filters manually after downloading the mail. This is fixed so the tags apply automatically when the mail comes in (so it works normally/properly now).

If you are still using Thunderbird 1.5, update now. Thunderbird 2 works better.

If are using Outlook, and you are only using the email and email address portion of Outlook, switch to Thunderbird for a better email experience.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Free Zone Alarm Firewall for Vista

Zone Labs will be releasing a new version of its free firewall very soon. This new edition will also work with Windows Vista.
If you want a copy of it now, download from here, or here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Rising Canadian Dollar Good for Computer Prices in Canada

The media reports, like this one in the Star, are misleading when it comes to consumer prices related to the Canadian dollar. Most of our electronic and computer products come from the US or from Asia. So, our rising dollar makes the end consumer price gradually lower.

I continually track prices on computers and components for my business, and I've noticed some drastic drops in prices in the past few months that are not related to the general trends in the industry, but to the rising value of the Canadian dollar.

So, if you are in the market for new computer or electronic hardware, our rising dollar is good news.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Thunderbird and Hotmail

Something seems to have changed today so you can no longer use the old Hotmail with Thunderbird 2. However, if you switch to the new Live Hotmail, and change a setting in the Hotmail extension, Hotmail will work again in Thunderbird 2.

1. Make sure you have the new versions of Webmail and Hotmail for TB 2 from
If you don't, uninstall the old extensions, then install the Webmail extension, then the Hotmail extension.

2. Go into the options in the Hotmail extension and check off "Hotmail Live (new website)".

Everything should work okay now.

If you don't have Thunderbird 2, get it.

Currently, you can't use hotmail for the outgoing server. You have to use something else - usually your regular ISP's outgoing server.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Firefox Update -

There will be an update to Firefox coming anytime now: version
When you get a note about it, accept the update, or restart to install update, depending on how you have your Firefox updates set.

It fixes new security issues and possibly some bugs.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Facebook - What it is and is it for you.

Facebook has been public now for a couple of months. In that time it has grown exponentially. The Toronto network on Facebook is largest in the world for a city (over 500,000 members and growing fast).

I've been on Facebook now for about a month. It is great for a number of things. But, it is also a big time-waster and can get addictive. If you have a lot of friends it can get to be like a 24 hour party on-line. A party of typing and clicking. Ha!

Old Friends
I've found it useful for finding and connecting with old friends that I had lost touch with.

Searching for friends
You can easily search for friends who are on contact lists for web-based email (like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo...). And, you can also search for friends who are in your address book if you use an email program like Thunderbird, Outlook, etc. Open your address book, export it as a file, then you can upload it in the search page. Facebook searches your contact list to see if any of these people (by their email address) is on Facebook. If a person is using an address you don't have, it won't find them this way though.
You can also search by typing in the name. Or, by looking on friends Friends Lists.

You can customize the privacy settings in many ways. Unlike MySpace, where you can see someone's page if you are not a member, you can't see anything in Facebook unless you are a member and you log in. You can set it so only your friends can see your profile, photos, etc. And you can also customize what different friends can see or not. You can set up secret events that only the invitees can see.

If you want to NOT be found by old high school "friends", then don't use your full name/real name and/or don't list your high school under Education. Most people use their real full names, but some use a nickname and some use a first name and last initial. Also, you don't have to post your photo. You can put up any picture you want in place of your photo.
You can set things up so can remain hidden from those you want to hide from - This includes potential employers doing checks on potential employees (for if you put up embarrassing photos of yourself and talk about things on your profile you don't want certain people to see). And, you can set things up so your close friends can see all you want them to see.

You can completely block people (like stalkers) if you want. You might bump into someone on another friends Friends List that you don't want any contact with. You can block this person. What this means is that they cannot find you if they do a search in Facebook. They cannot see you on a Friends List. And they cannot see any information about you that might pop up on another of your friends pages (like status updates, wall posts, photos you are tagged in, etc).

Facebook Marketplace
They just added free classified ads (sort of similar to craigslist). If you aren't in a network, you have to join a network to post an ad. I posted my business, Thor Tech Support, to it yesterday. Remember to adjust your privacy settings when you join a network if you only want your friends to see your profile. By default, when you join a network, anyone in the network can see your profile.

You can post photos, tag photos, create photo albums, and you can also share your photo album with family and friends who are not on Facebook (via a special link at the bottom of the specific photo album page).

Theres lots of other things you can do on Facebook, but I've mentioned some of the basics above.

Is Facebook For You?
If you don't have any friends, or family, and/or you don't want any, if you hate using a computer, especially anything to do with the Internet, if you are a Luddite, then Facebook is not for you.

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends, family members, co-workers, school friends, etc. With Facebook you can share photos, ideas, send out invitations, etc. If this is you, then Facebook is for you. If you are a parent and your kids want to get into a social network, Facebook can be (along with proper Internet-parenting, instruction and privacy settings) a safe environment for children/teens too.

It can be very addictive and a time-waster, but it can also be a great social tool, whether your Friends List is 5 or 500 people.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Kardphisher Windows Activation Trojan

Beware the new Kardphisher trojan, that acts like Windows Activation. One sure way to tell it is the trojan and not Windows Activation is by the typo "we will ask for you billing details"

More information here.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Page Down With Spacebar!

I found this cool trick I didn't know about today on Lifehacker. In your browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer and possibly others) you can use the Space Bar to page down, and page up by pressing Shift+Space Bar. This can be handy, especially on a laptop.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Open Office Calc - Solution For Formulas Not Working

I've been trying to use Open Office Calc as a spreadsheet for some time now. Although it is very similar to MS Excel, there are a few bugs that really bug me. One problem I had recently was that a formula that was working was suddenly not working. I had the format correct, including using ; instead of , to separate items in an IF formula (Calc uses ; instead of , as in Excel). But it just wasn't working. I tried it in a new file and it worked fine. Through trial and error I eventually discovered that I had to reformat the whole column to accept 2 decimal places and then it worked. Then I had to go in and manually reformat individual cells where I did not want decimal places to show. What a hassle. Anyway, that is the way to get it to work if you have this problem.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

What Is RSS?

Here's a great little post from Commoncraft that explains RSS and shows you how to set up and use RSS and an RSS reader service. If you read many news and blog sites, it can save you a lot of time.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Mozilla Thunderbird 2 Is Finally Ready

Thunderbird 2 is finally available. Download here. Install it on top of the old Thunderbird (1.5...).

Some of your old extensions and themes might not work (at first). The theme I was using did not work and things looked very messed up. I switched to the new default theme and things were fine. If you use small icons on the toolbars, you may need to Customize and uncheck and then re-check Use small icons to make this work.

Release notes are here if you are interested in all the details of what is new.

The only problem I had was with my Hotmail that I had set up with 2 extensions so I could read and send Hotmail email via Thunderbird. To fix it, I had to delete my Hotmail account within Thunderbird and recreate it using the new Webmail feature in Thunderbird. If you are dealing with this situation too, make sure to include "" in the user name, and for the outgoing server, use the one you were using with the old Hotmail extension set up. The new account will default to an outgoing server of: "Webmail - localhost" which is a weird combination of your regular ISP account and hotmail and this does not work. Use the hotmail - local outgoing server that you set up previously - it works.
Then, I went onto my hotmail on the web and marked everything as UNread and then re-downloaded all the messages into Thunderbird. Adjust the account settings for the newly set up Hotmail in Thunderbird to keep messages on the server.

My Gmail, that I had set up as a POP account in Thunderbird still works fine.

If you want to force some old extensions to work in the new Thunderbird, install the Mr Tech Local Install extension (Firefox and Thunderbird) and then configure it to allow the old extensions to work (this doesn't work for the old webmail/hotmail extensions though). It may not work for some extensions.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Music To Go - Which Machine To Buy?

There are many different machines on the market for playing audio files. So, which one do you buy? Which is the best deal? Which will play what you want it to play, when you want it to play them. Which is most versatile?

I'm not going to tell you which specific make and model to buy, but I will tell you a few things to beware and be on the lookout for.

The media and the big advertising campaigns would make you think that Apple's iPod is the thing to get. Or, maybe a Sony machine. But there are major drawbacks here.

The most common music format is MP3 followed by WMA. Some machines will allow you to drag and drop these files onto your music player, or back. However, iPods and some others, make it so you have to convert the files to a format that can only be played on that machine - you can't copy this file back to your computer or to another computer or different music player. You want to look for a machine that you don't have to convert files for. If you have a machine that doesn't use any conversion, you have more freedom with what you can do with your music.

Batteries - iPods have the battery built into them, so when it goes (when it can no longer recharge), your iPod is gone. In other machines, you can use use regular or rechargeable batteries, so the battery life doesn't limit the life of your machine.

DRM - some machines, like iPods and Sony's, for example, don't allow you to copy certain music to them due to licensing issues (DRM) even if you own the CD you are getting the music from. But there are machines that don't have this problem.

Price: The biggest advertised and most talked about devices are also the most expensive. But why pay more for a device that
- you have to convert the music file format and then you can't use this file on anything else
- you are limited to what files you can convert to it
- is useless if the battery no longer charges

There are devices that cost less, give you total freedom regarding what files you can transfer, and what format, let you control the battery situation, and come with a lot more features (added FM radio and recording from FM radio, voice recording, direct MP3 encoding recording from a live audio source, display ...)

So, when you are shopping for a music player, keep these things in mind. Look for something that
- is reasonably priced
- requires no file conversion
- is not limited by DRM
- supports a variety of file formats
- allows replacing the battery easily and inexpensively
- has additional features you want (display, FM Radio, voice recording, direct live audio MP3 encoding, can be used for file storage, etc)
- works with your computer/operating system

Did I miss something? Add a comment.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Flash Security fix from Windows Update Won't Install

Problem: you can get and install all the security updates for Windows except for the Security fix for Flash Player.

This is due to the Flash Player plugin for IE being out of date. If you use Firefox all the time, you will probably have the Flash Player up to date for it, so you may have had trouble trying to figure this one out.

Solution: Open Internet Explorer, go to the Flash Player site and install the latest version. You might have to restart the computer after this to make the little yellow shield go away.

Laptops, Firewalls and Windows Update

I recently encountered this issue. Windows Update stopped working properly on an Acer laptop. If I manually ran the update, it would loop at some point and I could not get the updates. I found out that the Generic Host now needed to be completely trusted by the firewall. This was not the case a while ago.

It may have been caused by something in the Zone Alarm firewall due to the major update (although the program settings were not changed), or something in a recent Windows Update itself.

To fix this issue if you are using Zone Alarm: open the program, go to the Program Control, find Generic Host... and make sure it is now allowed in all 4 columns. You should be able to run Windows Update now.

New Computer? Strip out the Gunk first.

I just read a posting about all the mess you have to deal with on a new computer. The mess being all the advertising and trial-ware that comes with many new computers. Sony, Dell, HP and pretty much the biggest culprits in loading up their computers with junk.

When you first boot this machine up, you should go to Add/Remove Programs and strip out all the junk, including trial-ware for security programs, as what usually comes with the computer, programs like Symantec, are not worth the hassle. The big-name computer companies get paid by these other companies to include their trial-ware software on the new computer. It's too bad they don't come with the type of trial-ware that is free all the time - basic versions - that give you the choice of continuing to use it, or upgrade to a more advanced paid version.

When I deal with setting up a new computer for a client, I strip out all this gunk and install free, and easy to use security software programs that give you good security. I also remove a lot of unnecessary programs and services from starting up with Windows so the computer boots up nice and fast and runs fast, as it should.

If you know that you need to expect that you will have to clean out this stuff when you get a computer, it's not so much of a hassle. Don't check it out, just clean it out and be done with it. Every computer needs to be customized when you first get it. ALL PCs, including Macs come set up in a way that may not be how you like it set up. Brand-name computer and software manufacturers like to assume that they know how you want your computer to be set up (with influence from the trial-ware software companies). But, they way they set things up is often not the way you need or want it to be set up.

Once you clean up the mess they put on your computer, it will boot up fast and run fast. Think of the mess as just extra packaging. Yes, it would be great to not have this mess to deal with, but it often results in your computer costing less, and the odd time, you will actually like a piece of the trial-ware and want to use it.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Rthdcpl.exe - Illegal System DLL Relocation

If you receive a message pop-up that starts with this, most likely a recent Windows update is conflicting with your Realtek HD Audio Control Center.

To fix it, go here, download the Microsoft hotfix, run it, and restart your computer.

If this doesn't fix it, it is possibly a spyware/virus issue and you need to run your antivirus and/or antispyware scans to find and fix it.

UPDATE: The recent Windows security fix for animated cursor problem caused a number of other programs to not work properly, including the above issue. For more information and Microsoft's fixes for these problems, check out their page here.

Blogger and Internet Explorer

If you have a blog via Blogger, you may notice that, after you sign in and you view your blog, there are no Edit Post (pencil) icons at the bottom of each post. So, if you are browsing and you want to edit a post, you can't directly from this page

The best solution is to use Firefox instead of IE. The Edit Post icon shows up when viewed with Firefox.

Or, in IE, you will have to click on Customize at the top and navigate to the Edit Posts page.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Zone Alarm Free firewall - Major Update Is Ready

For all those who use Zone Alarm Free firewall, there is a new major update available. You can either get it by manually running the Update, or eventually, Zone Alarm will pop up with an update notification.

If you have had troubles properly updating Zone Alarm in the past (like, if you ended up running a trial version instead of the free version after running an update, or, if you clicked on the wrong file and ended up opening some other program), print this article out first so you can follow all the instructions step by step.

To get the update manually:
- Open Zone Alarm
- On the top left, click on Overview
- On the top right, click on Preferences
- Click on Check For Update and follow instructions
- Your browser will open to a Zone Alarm update page. The first option (1) and it's sub-options will try to get you to buy the paid version of Zone Alarm and other stuff. Ignore them and click on option 2 (download update only)
- Once you have finished downloading the file (zlsSetup_70_337_000_en.exe), run it
- Select No Thanks
- Allow it to scan the computer for your Internet-related programs
- Restart the computer
- After your computer has re-stared, it will pop up with another window trying to sell you stuff again. Select No Thank You
- Don't click on the video, choose Finish
- Done

You will notice that it looks a bit different, especially the icon in the System Tray (bottom right of your sceen). Instead of the red and yellow ZA, it is now a blue & grey Z. Don't worry, it works the same.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Open Office 2.2 Is Finally Out

Open Office 2.2 has finally been released. There are security improvements and other enhancements. Click here to go to Open Office.

If you have a previous version, just download v2.2 and install it on top of the old version.

It's bigger than previous releases, and, since it just came out, their server may be slow for downloading. If it is going way too slow, cancel the download and try again.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Another Thunderbird Extension

I just found another very useful Thunderbird extension: Empty Trash Toolbar Button.
Install it, restart Thunderbird, right-click on your toolbar to Customize, drage the new Trash icon up to where you want it, ok. Now, to empty the trash, just click on that button.

To empty your junk folder, there is a Delete Junk icon already in there (when you Customize the toolbar) - you can drag it up to where you want it to have a shortcut for that too.

Fun With ISPs

Ellen Roseman wrote an article in the Toronto Star the other day about customer dissatisfaction with Bell services. I was inspired to send her an email highlighting some of my fun with Bell Sympatico:

Good article. It brings to light some on-going problems.

I have personally had some bad experiences with Bell Sympatico over the years.

In March 2006, I upgraded my email to Sympatico's new server, which is the MSN Hotmail server. Right away I noticed a difference. I wasn't getting many of my emails - for example: from myself (I often send myself notes), from friends and family - all of these people are in my personal address book. I was told to make sure these people were in my contacts on the web site for my email. So, I did that and I lowered the Spam filtering on the web site to the lowest. Guess what?, still not getting emails and delays of up to a few days for an email to reach me, or for an email I send to reach someone. After many calls, over a number of months, and many hours of talking to people who say, "oh, it's an MSN server issue, we will pass it on to them", there was little improvement.
It seems, after a year, that they have got things working okay now. In addition, the level of spam suddenly jumped back to what it was before I "upgraded". So, it took them a year to fix the problem, and all the while they denied there was a problem.

Any time I call when the service goes down, they always deny there is a problem with the lines or server or station and they want to get me to do all sorts of nasty things on my computer for the next 1/2 hour before they will even ask a supervisor (even after I explain that I am a professional computer technician and I've done all those things already). If I stay on the phone long enough, they will admit that someone is working on the lines in my area. I have stopped calling them (as it gets me nowhere), and I just wait for a few hours and try again.

Recently, I called to upgrade from DSL Basic to regular High Speed. The operator said it would take 5 business days. Then, when I called 5 business days later to ask why it wasn't upgraded, I got a recorded message that it would be a MONTH (not 5 business days) before they would have my service upgraded.

When I first signed up for Sympatico (years ago, in the late 1990s, after Interlog had gone down the tubes), the service was reliable and they seemed quick to help. Now, the service is unreliable and the support is atrocious and deceitful. I've thought of switching to Rogers, but I've heard similar horror stories from their customers.

Oh well.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Green Tips For Electronics

Treehugger has a great green electronics article.

Although you might get something cheap and save it from going into landfill, still, you get what you pay for and remember, the practical life of a computer is about 5 years. The physical life of some computer components is shorter, especially if they are poorly made to begin with, or have been well-used. If you are getting a computer for something that is mission-critical, buy new, good-quality gear. It will last longer and be more reliable (and cost you less in the long run, instead of having to buy a number of cheap computers.

This is a great section on rechargeable batteries.

Linux and the near Future?

I almost forgot about this comment I posted with Free Software Magazine, until I was testing the Younanimous meta-search engine (that combines Google, Yahoo and MSN), and found the comment page as the top-ranked listing for my tech support web site Thor Tech Support.
It's about Linux and how I think it may find the opportunity to get more of a foothold into the desktop market as new operating systems costs rise.

And here's a review of Younanimous, which, surprisingly, is only a few days old. Now, when they fix it so you can customize your search preferences, like - show 100 results on a page - among other things, they will have a winner.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Neural Impulse Actuator

OCZ has come up with a device that senses brain activity and uses this to control computer software. The device is called the Neural Impulse Actuator. They hope to bring it to market by the end of the year for about $300.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Recommended Thunderbird Extensions

Here are some core Thunderbird extensions that I frequently use. Most of them (if not all) can be found at the Mozilla Thunderbird Add-ons page.

Contacts Add BCC Button
If you use the Contacts side bar when you are writing an email, this extension can be handy. On the side bar, there are Add to and Add CC buttons. This extension adds a Add BCC button to the side bar.

Signature Switch
You need to set up html signature files first. But once you do, in the extension's Options, you can add them in. Then, when you are writing an email, you can chose which signature to use via the icon on the toolbar. Handy if you have a polite one to use when writing to your parents and a less-polite one for when you write to friends.

This extension is great for if you receive a lot of emails that contain a lot of attached pictures. Instead of scrolling down to see each picture, you can click on the slideshow button (bottom right of the email - beside the list of attached files) and a slideshow viewer will pop up. Expand it to full screen and then click through the pictures one by one. The viewer window includes options for saving individual pictures or all pictures at once to your hard drive.

Provides a timestamp you can place anywhere in your email. Fully customizeable. This is handy for if a server delays your emails, or if a server puts the wrong time on your email. Make sure you have your computer set at the right time and time zone to start with though!

Update Notifier
Same extension can be used for Firefox or Thunderbird. Set it to Check for updates when Thunderbird starts, Install updates when they become available,and un-check all the other boxes in Options. With these settings, all your Thunderbird extensions will update themselves in the background and you won't have to update them manually.

How to install a Thunderbird Extension

Go to the page with the extension. Right-click on the install button and save the file to your hard drive. Once saved, open Thunderbird, click on Tools, Extensions, and Install. Once installed, restart Thunderbird and open Tools, Extensions again and right-click on the new extension, chose Options and configure the new extension.


Here is a site with some beautiful nature wallpapers.

If you have a slow connection be patient as it may take some time for things to draw out on the screen.

One of my favourite wallpapers sites is
Type in wallpaper in the search field (or whatever you are looking for). If you have a laptop with an wide screen resolution, when you search for wallpaper (in this site and anywhere else), if you type in your resolution, the search will come up with wallpapers that will fit your particular screen. Don't know what your resolution is? In Windows, open Desktop Properties and click on the Settings tab. In the bottom left of this window you will see your screen resolution.

Google Image Search Tip
To search for wallpapers of certain things, use the Google Image Search and then chose Large Images.

Organizing Wallpaper
If you like to collect a lot of wallpaper and use these pictures for your desktop, a handy way to organize this is to create a folder inside My Pictures called Wallpaper. Then, in Windows, when you want to change the wallpaper, in Windows, open Desktop Properties, go to the Desktop tab, click Browse, look in My Pictures, Wallpaper and chose your wallpaper.

Firefox Updates

Firefox will update itself again soon. Just wait for it and when it asks, allow it to update. All good. The update includes 6 security bug fixes.
The updates are (for those of you with version 2), and for those of you still using version 1.5.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Recommended Firefox Extensions

The following is a list of the Firefox extensions that I use most frequently. Most of them are available at the Firefox Add-Ons site. But some of them are available at the Mozdev Extension Room, or at the developer's home page. To find any on this list that are not in the Add-Ons site or the Extension room, just type Firefox and the extension name in Google and you should be able to find them.

MR Tech Local Install Install this one first.
This extension allows you to install extensions from within the extension window from a files on your computer (instead of off a web site). This makes it handy for re-installing if you are doing a fresh install of Firefox. It also lets you remove the installation delay, sort the extension and theme windows alphabetically, comes with a re-start button and a few other things. You can also use it to tell Firefox to ignore the version, so older extensions will work with newer versions of Firefox.


Blocks ads from loading on web pages. When it is on, it will show the word Adblock in the bottom right of your screen on the status bar. Right click on this to access the options menu. If you want to check a page with all the ads, then disable and re-load the page. To block specific Flash ads that are coming up (even with Adblock on), chose Overlay flash (for left click) on the Adblock options menu, then left-click on the ad. It will pop up with a window showing you the address for the flash file. If it has something like shoptv in the address, you can make a wild card out if it - change it to *shoptv* and then it will block all flash ads from shoptv. Once you've blocked this, reload the page and the other flash graphics that were not ads (that you don't want blocked), will re-appear.

Adblock Filterset.G Updater
Companion extension for Adblock - a big set of filters for common ads. A constantly updated database of ads and ad domains on the web.

Allows you to program various mouse gestures (using right click and drag) to do many things (instead of having to click keys or search through menus or select buttons). Examples: I have mine programmed so when I drag-right on a link, it opens in a new tab in the background. To close the current tab, I drag-down. When you right-click and drag a red line appears on the screen to help guide what you are doing.

Canadian English Dictionary
The English version of Firefox 2 comes with the American English dictionary installed by default. For Canadian English, install this dictionary.

Save your backed up extensions (see FEBE) into one extension file for easy re-installation (in case you need to do a fresh install of Firefox, or if you are setting it up on a friend's computer).

Dictionary Tooltip
Double-click on a word and up pops the meaning. Simple. You can also chose which dictionary site you use. The list also includes the Urban Dictionary, which is good for looking up slang terms.

Gives you a few more options for your Download window.

Fast Video Download
Saves embedded flash videos from many sites, including, You Tube, Google Video and many more. Just click on the icon on the status bar and the Save As window comes up. Simple.

FEBE enables you to backup your extensions as their original installation file forms.

Firefox Menu Buttons
This gives you many more buttons to use for customizing your menu toolbars, which is very handy if you also use the Tiny Menu extension.

An excellent and simple FTP program that opens up in a Firefox tab. Just create a new account, enter your ftp address, login and password and away you go. Very simple for uploading files to your web site.

I like this better than using the search field that comes with Firefox (which is limited). And I like it more than the Google Toolbar (which comes with too much stuff). This extension is very customizable. Find it at:
scroll down to Experimental Version and install the latest version.

When you run a Google search you will get the usual list of sites, but with Googlepedia running, you will also see the Wikipedia site that relates to your search on the right half of your screen. You can expand, shrink or hide the Wikipedia page.

Sometimes you will come to a page that won't load properly in Firefox (because some web programmers program sites for IE only (which does not fully support web standards)). With this extension you can open Internet Explorer inside a Firefox tab. You can also use this to program specific sites, so whenever you click on the bookmark or a link to that site, it will come up as an IE tab.

Puts the print/print preview arrow back on the Print button on your toolbar (so you can preview what will print and decide which pages you want.)

With this you can select (drag and draw a rectangle around) anything inside your browser window on a web page and save it as an image file.

Download/save an image to your computer by left-clicking and dragging on it.

Tab Mix Plus
Fully customize the way that the tabs work and appear. This includes Session Manager, which is very handy (and is more customizable than the built-in Firefox restore function) for when Firefox crashes when you are in the middle of something.

Tiny Menu
Menu-izes the text menu, so it becomes a drop-down menu - thus saving you more space on the main menu bar.

If you can't save the video with Fast Video Download, try this one. Right-click on the page, chose Unplug from the menu and the page will change to one with a list of the video in different formats. Chose the one you want and save. This extension seems better than Video Downloader and Downloaded Embedded.

Update Notifier
Currently, you can set Firefox to automatically update itself. But you can't set this for extensions. With this extension you can. You can set this so every time you open Firefox, it will check for updates for all extensions and themes, download and install them, all automatically in the background (so you don't have to worry about doing this manually).