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Disable Autorun and Autoplay topMalicious software has been infecting USB flash drives (thumb drive, usb key, memory stick) for years. Once on a flash drive it uses assorted Autorun and Autoplay tricks to dupe someone into running the software and thus infect a new PC. Microsoft offers a way to disable Autorun, but it is flawed. A better solution is a simple zap to the registry. For more see The best way to disable Autorun for protection from infected USB flash drives and Test your defenses against malicious USB flash drives.
On Line Anonymity and Privacy topIn order to maintain what little privacy is left to you, you need some way of hiding your name, internet address, email address and so on. If you would like to see how much information your browser sends along as you surf the web, go to Anonymizer, you'll be surprised. To see how open your computer is to snooping, go to Shield's Up at GRC.COM. Freedom, which was offered by ZeroKnowledge, recently announced it was discontinuing its service. [for those who had subscribed, contact them to get a refund of the unused portion of your fee.
DSL topDSL is a high-speed digital Internet connection that runs over regular phone lines. Here are a couple of sites which provide good information:
DSL Reports is a consumer-oriented site with good information, tips, warnings, reviews etc. Incidentally, it contains a couple of warnings regarding some PHONY free DSL sites. If you want to find a DSL provider, this is a good place to start.
DSL-Prime is a business-oriented site with data regarding suppliers, industry news, maps with provider locations, etc. It is run by Dave Burstein.
DSL/Cable Modem tweaks topIf you are not satisfied with the speed results you are getting from your DSL or Cable Modem, PC Pitstop and DSL Reports have bandwidth tests that help test your Internet connection. The first test below can also be used with dial-up modem connections.
Bandwidth Test: www.pcpitstop.com/internet/bandwidth.asp
Internet Connection Test: www.pcpitstop.com/internet/pinger.asp
Note: The first note thing to do at the PC Pitstop web site is wait, which their instructions fail to mention. Before these tests can work, they have to download an ActiveX control. The tests will run before the ActiveX control downloads, but the results will be wrong and/or garbage. The web site also fails to mention that you have to respond to a pop-up window that authorizes the installation of their ActiveX control.
Broadband Up and Download tests:
GoBack topAccording to the vendor, "GoBack ... gives you the power to immediately undo common user errors and serious system problems on your PC. Ever wish you could go back in time and retrieve lost data, unfreeze your computer when the system unexpectedly quits, or recover from a nasty computer virus? Wouldn't it be great if you could go back and retrieve a folder or a document that was accidentally deleted? Maybe you want to go back and return your computer to the way it was before an unwelcome visitor came in and reformatted your hard drive? Well, wish no more. GoBack software can do all this and more."
Hank and Joe use GoBack strongly recommend it. For more see www.symantec.com. But remember, GoBack does not replace the need for regular and frequent back up of your hard disks (next topic).
We often admonish users to backup their systems. Many of the calls for help that we get on the air could have been avoided if the listeners had a practical way of restoring the original information on their systems. But this is only possible if the information was properly saved. We created this backup document (in Adobe Acrobat PDF format) to help introduce you to backing up your computer. Clicking on the link should display the document in your web browser. However, we suggest right clicking instead and saving it on your computer.
A number of anti-virus companies provide free online virus scanning of your computer from their web site. This is normally done using ActiveX so it will only work with Internet Explorer. What happens is that the anti-virus program is downloaded to your computer along with the latest virus definitions. Then every file on your computer (you can probably change this) is scanned for viruses. Needless to say, the process can take a while depending on the speed of your Internet connection and how many files are on your computer. Be aware that this type of virus scanning does not prevent a virus from being installed on your computer a few minutes after the scan completes. Still, if you suspect a problem, this should be one of the first things you try. Among the free online virus scanners are:
For more, see Michaels page of virus links.
Anti-Virus Programs top
Two free anti-virus programs that Hank likes are AVG from Grisoft (alternate link). and Avast. AVG is free only for personal use. Avast requires an email address for registration and Michael thinks the default user interface is clumsy (you can modify the skin). The free version of AntiVir does not require an email address and Michael thinks it is easy to use.
Adware Removal Software top
Ad-aware is a adware and Spyware removal utility, that scans your memory, registry and hard drives for known Spyware components and lets you remove them safely. www.lavasoftusa.comSpyBot Search and Destroy is another free Spyware removal program available at www.safer-networking.org or at www.spybot.info
Spyware Removal top
No one anti-Spyware program catches everything, we suggest using more than one. All the programs run on-demand, some can also run constantly in the background, much like an anti-virus program.
Joe likes CounterSpy from Sunbelt Software. Michael likes Malware Bytes AntiMalware. There is a free version for personal use only that removes malicious software and runs on demand. The paid version runs all the time in the background and prevents malware infections.
Michael blogged about the free Starter Edition of Spyware Doctor version 5. The free trial of the product offers protection from infections, but no removal. In contrast, the free Starter Edition offers free malware removal, but almost no protection from infection. See Get Spyware Doctor for free - a first look at the Starter Edition from December 30, 2007 and Spyware Doctor Starter Edition - a second look written January 7, 2008.
ZoneAlarm Firewall topEveryone needs to run a firewall, and the one that comes pre-installed with Windows XP and Vista leaves a lot to be desired. Earlier versions of Windows didn't even include a firewall. An easy to use personal firewall is ZoneAlarm. When it comes to firewalls, easy to use is hard to find. There is a free version of the ZoneAlarm firewall and multiple commerical security products from the same company that include the firewall with other anti-malware software. We suggest the free stand-alone firewall, which you can download here.
Free ISPs topMost of the FREE ISP's have disappeared or changed their business model. Be aware that many of these "free" ISPs require you to give up your right to privacy and anonymity in return for the Internet connection... they use the information they gather from your application, additional surveys, and often your web surfing experience to target advertising. Also, be aware that it is possible that some of the sales offerings made to you may border on the fraudulent, so be very careful when you read any offers made by email or on their web pages.
You'll find a list (though not always up to date) of free ISPs with helpful descriptions at: www.isps.8m.com/freeisp.htm. Other lists are at www.findanisp.com/free_isps.php, free-webhosting.info, and www.freedomlist.com which lists both free and low cost ISPs. CNET reviewed four bargain ISPs August 7, 2001. A listener recommended access-4-free.com which is not completely free, but close. We don't recommend or endorse any of these ISPs.
Startup Programs - Controlling topAn excellent free program for controlling the applications that run automatically when Windows starts up is Startup Control Panel. It is available from Mike Lin at his web site mlin.net. The "Control Panel version" creates an icon in the Control Panel called "Startup" making it easy to find. The stand-alone version is portable, it's a single EXE file that can run on any Windows machine without having to be installed.
Peer-to-Peer Networking Outline topSee Hank Kee's Outline on How to Build a Peer-to-Peer Network with Windows95/98 (extracted from his seminar notes).
Patent Information topO'Reilly & Associates patent information pages
IBM's patent database and search engine
U. S. Government Patent and Trademark Office
Important Reference Site topOne Link we can't do without: WWW.BARTLEBY.COM (The Great Books, Online) gives you free and easy access to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition; Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition; Simpson's Contemporary Quotations; and The American Heritager Book of English Usage, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Strunk's Elements of Style; six poetry anthologies, including the Oxford Book of English Verse; Emily Post's Etiquette; the Cambridge History of English and American Literature: An Encyclopedia in Eighteen Volumes; Frazer's the Golden Bough (1922), Thomas Bulfinch's Mythology (1913) and more.It's a whole small reference library at your fingertips! [adapted from Fred Langa's Newsletter -- the LangaList]
Buying Odd Computer Stuff top
A good source of odd computer stuff is Cyber Guys. Joe especially likes to browse through their catalog. Note that we have no association with Cyber Guys and only mention them here as an FYI.
Donating or Recycling An Old Computer top
For a fee, Dell, HP and IBM will recycle old computers, monitors, printers (and more) from any manufacturer. The prices vary, but range from $15 to $39 per box. Dell and HP offer home pickup, IBM requires you to drop it off with UPS (home pickup is extra). All three require you to first box up the equipment and note that wiping out a computer hard disk of your files is your responsibility. Dell and HP offer rebates, IBM does not. As of July 2003, Dell was offering a rebate of 10% on later purchases from their web site. HP offers coupons for later purchases from their web site. The coupons are roughly the same value as the recycling cost and vary with the equipment and number of boxes. In June and July 2003 Dell got bad publicity for using prisoners to do their recycling. In early July 2003 they decided to change recycling providers. HP has won awards for their recycling program.
Our webmaster, Michael Horowitz, teaches a class called So You Bought A New PC. Now What?. Recycling an old computer is a topic in the class and he has links on the subject on the web page for the class.
To donate an old computer:
Listener Suggestions top
Tiny Apps provides links to small software programs available on the Internet (mostly for Windows). A tiny app (application) is software weighing 1.44mb or less, that is not Adware, does not require the VB/MFC/.NET runtimes and works under at least Windows 9x.
Open Office top
Open Office is free, open source software that competes with Microsoft Office. It has a word processor (Write), a spreadsheet (Calc), a presentation program (Impress), a database (Base), and a drawing program (Draw). It can be downloaded from openoffice.org.
For the most part, the applications in Open Office look and act like those in Microsoft Office. Open Office can read files created in Microsoft Office and save files in the same format as Microsoft Office. The one exception is that it can not read files created in the new file format introduced in Office 2007. But then again, without additional software, neither can the older versions of Microsoft Office.
Security Web Site top
To learn about the latest computer security bugs from the U.S. government, go to www.us-cert.gov (the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team).
Our Blogs top
Michael writes a Defensive Computing blog at Computerworld.com. Some of his articles:
Alfred writes HDTV Almanac.
|XML||Webmaster: Michael Horowitz Last Update: April 9, 2011 6 PM|