========================
                         Support Alert
                         Free Edition
                    ========================
                    www.techsupportalert.com

                 "Gizmo's top picks of the best
                  Tech resources and utilities"

                 Issue 120 - 20th April, 2005
 

    Support Alert is a registered online serial publication
                         ISSN 1448-7020.

                        <<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>

IN THIS ISSUE:
==============
 
0.   EDITORIAL: Are free security products good enough? Part 2.

1.   TOP TECH SITES
1.1  Google Gmail Accounts for All
1.2  Yahoo Mail Offers 1GB Storage for Free
1.3  More Secure Cookie Management for Internet Explorer
1.4  The Best Internet Network Information Site
1.5  Top Freeware for Pocket PCs
1.6  Free Driver Sites (SE Edition)
1.7  Using Gmail for Storing Large Files Online (SE Edition)
1.8  No Need to Hang Around While Windows Installs (SE Edition)
1.9  Reduce the Noise from your PC (SE Edition)
1.10 Free Reminder Service (SE Edition)
 
2.   UTILITIES
2.1  Best Free Startup and Process Viewer
2.2  Get This Top Program Launcher While It's Free
2.3  How to Remind Yourself to Include Attachments
2.4  Free Sound File Format Converter
2.5  Free IBM Spam Filter Spams Spammers
2.6  An Essential ZoneAlarm Accessory (SE Edition)
2.7  An Easy way to Learn to Use Regular Expressions (SE Edition)
2.8  How to Scan Without Using a Scanner (SE Edition)
2.9  How to Restore Computers to a Standard Configuration (SE)

3.   SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1  Microsoft Security News
3.2  New Microsoft Jet Vulnerability
3.3  Serious Flaw in OpenOffice
3.4  Maxthon Browser Vulnerability
3.5  New Version of Firefox and Mozilla Fixes Security Flaws
3.6  New Rootkit Detector from Microsoft

4.   OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1  The Fastest Flash Drive
4.2  FireFox Extension Stores Web Pages
4.3  How to Display Full Email Headers
4.4  Ten Things That Don't Make Sense
4.5  The Proxomitron Explained (SE Edition)
4.6  FireFox Extension Lets Users Alter Web Pages (SE Edition)
4.7  The Top Ten BitTorrent Sites (SE Edition)
4.8  How to Buy Digital Media without DRM (SE Edition)
 
5.   TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1  How to Back up Mozilla FireFox and Thunderbird

6.   FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1  Remove Web Ads, Popups, Cookies and Enhance Your Privacy
6.2  A Better Un-installer for Windows

7.   MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
 

0. EDITORIAL
============

Last month I discussed free security products and addressed the
question of whether they are good enough to adequately protect
your computer.

I concluded that the best free security programs are very good
indeed but for the most part, not quite as good as the best
commercial security programs.

However, I qualified this statement with the observation that no
security product, even the best, provides perfect protection.
Perfect malware protection is a fantasy. It does not exist.

The most important point in last month's editorial was the
observation that users of free security products can greatly
improve their detection rates by combining several free products
to provide layered detection.

Using the free AVG anti-virus scanner as an example, I showed
that by adding another layer in the form of the free Ewido anti-
trojan scanner, users could get aggregate protection that was as
good as or better than using the class-leading NOD32 anti-virus
scanner.

This was not idle speculation but was based on actual detection
rates using a test set of infected files downloaded from the
KaZaa P2P network.

On this test set NOD32 managed a detection rate of around 86% of
malware products while AVG detected around 84%. The combination
of AVG and Ewido detected around 90%.

This last month I've supplemented these results by looking at
the effect of adding another layer of protection in the form of
a spyware scanner.

I used three popular products to check my test set of infected
files. First, the free products SpyBot Search and Destroy V1.4b2
and Microsoft's Antispyware b1, and then the commercial product
Ad-Aware SE Pro V1.05.

When I simply scanned the infected files, none of the three
products detected a single malware file; they all missed the lot.

This is not surprising. Anti-spyware products have very poor
performance when used to scan files. That's because the real
strength of these products is in detecting already installed
spyware programs or programs that are trying to install
themselves.

This means that's there's not much point using an anti-spyware
program to scan a file that you are yet to install.  It's
unlikely it will find anything.

That's why many anti-spyware products have the file scanning
option hidden or buried deeply within the product.

When I executed rather than scanned the malware infected files
in my test set, the spyware scanners performed much better. Here
are the number of malware files each product detected:

MS Antispyware  32
Ad-Aware        28
SpyBot          25

These results are consistent with recent findings by other
researchers and reinforce my belief that the MS product is
currently the class leader while SpyBot's performance has
slipped markedly in recent months.
 
Now the really interesting part: the overall effect of adding
this additional layer of protection.

With a three layer system using AVG anti-virus, Ewido anti-
trojan and Microsoft Antispyware, the overall detection rate
jumped to 95%.

That's pretty impressive by any standard. When you consider that
all these products are free, it's an outstanding result.

Letís briefly recap:

A one layer protective system using the $39 NOD32 anti-spyware
system detected 84% of malware products in the test set of
infected files.

A one layer system using the free AVG anti-virus scanner
detected 82%.

A two layer system using the free AVG anti-virus scanner and the
free Ewido anti-trojan scanner detected 90%.

A three layer system the free AVG anti-virus scanner, the free
Ewido anti-trojan scanner and the free Microsoft Antispyware
scanner detected 95%.

This is really encouraging news for users of free security
software. One question remains unanswered, however: what
detection rates can be achieved by using a three layer system
using the best commercial software?

For the answer to that question, folks, you will have to wait
until next month's issue.

Gizmo
editor@techsupportalert.com
 

PS This month I'm giving away 5 free copies of the the top rated
Norton Internet Security 2005. For details, read below.

Support Alert relies on voluntary donations to survive.  If you
feel that you've benefited from reading this newsletter perhaps
you would like to consider donating by subscribing to the
premium "Supporters' Edition" of this newsletter.

The Premium SE Edition contains almost twice the number of great
tech sites, free utilities, tips and other content as the
standard edition. It's also ad-free.

This month I'm giving away five copies of Norton's top rated
Internet Security Suite 2005.

With it's class-leading combination of anti-virus, anti-spam and
firewall protection it's one of the best options for protecting
your computer. However it's a bit expensive for most users.

The five free copies I'm giving away will be allocated at random
but your chances of scoring one are actually quite good. So if
you have been thinking of subscribing, now's the time.

Even if you don't win anything you'll still get my special
report "Gizmo's Desert Island Utilities" which outlines the
software I consider most useful, including many free products.

You'll also get immediate access to the archive of all past
issues of the Premium Supporters' edition of the newsletter
where you can catch up on the hundreds of great utilities you
missed in the standard edition.
 

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE PREMIUM SE EDITION
==========================================

12 months subscription to the Supporters' Edition costs $10
which can be made by check or credit card using either ClickBank
or PayPal or simply send cash.

Use the link below to subscribe now:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm
 

1. TOP TECH SITES
=================
 
1.1  Google Gmail Accounts for All
Google is currently offering Gmail accounts at random from its
home page www.google.com. To get an account, keep on pressing
"refresh" until the offer comes up. Alternatively simply go to
this link:
https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount

1.2  Yahoo Mail Offers 1GB Storage for Free
Coinciding with the imminent release of Google's GMail service,
rival Yahoo has announced that it will upgrade its online mail
storage allowance for free accounts from 250MB to 1GB. I've
always thought Yahoo Mail to be one of the best free mail
services and this latest change reinforces that conviction.
http://mail.yahoo.com

1.3  More Secure Cookie Management for Internet Explorer
If you configure IE to not accept any cookies, you'll find quite
a few web sites won't work correctly. I was over at the JAP
security site the other day and noticed this downloadable IE6
cookie configuration file that allows you accept cookies for a
single web session and then dispose of them when the session
ends. It's a neat solution.
http://anon.inf.tu-dresden.de/ie6_privacy_en.html

1.4  The Best Internet Network Information Site
It's been a while since I last visited the DNS Tools site and in
the interim it has added a whole batch of new online inquiry
tools to its already excellent collection of free services.
There are too many tools to describe but if you need to know
anything about a web site, URL, email address or web routing
then this is the place to go.
http://www.dnsstuff.com/

1.5  Top Freeware for Pocket PCs
The folks over at the KVPUG forums have got an interesting
thread going on this topic.
http://www.kvpug.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11659

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

1.6  Three Free Driver Sites
1.7  Using Gmail for Storing Large Files Online
1.8  No Need to Hang Around While Windows Installs
1.9  How to Reduce the Noise from your PC
1.10 A Terrific Free Reminder Service

Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to
mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com
 

2. UTILITIES
============

2.1  Best Free Startup and Process Viewer
In the "46 Best-ever Freeware" listing I have two entries in the
best startup manager category: Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel
and Nir Sofer's StartupRun. Subscriber Nikita Kobrin wrote in to
suggest a third option called Starter. It's a fine suggestion;
it combines many of the strengths of the other products and
additionally includes a first rate process viewer. As a bonus,
it can be run directly from the executable without installation
which makes it a handy item to have on your toolkit CD or flash
drive. This is a real find, thanks Nikita. Freeware, All Windows
versions, 466KB.
http://codestuff.netfirms.com/products_starter.html

2.2  Get This Top Program Launcher While It's Free
A couple of issues back I mentioned H-Menu the excellent free
launch bar come desktop organizer by Hans de Vries. I visited
the site recently and it states that from the 22nd of April
development will be suspended. My guess is that the product may
be going to morph into shareware so go grab the free version
while you can. It's a great product providing one of the very
best solutions to desktop clutter. Freeware, Win9X and later,
165KB
http://www.h-menu.com/homeEN.htm

2.3  How to Remind Yourself to Include Attachments
Forgetting to append an attachment to an email is a common
problem. There are a couple of commercial products [1,2] for
Outlook that will remind you. They work by looking for words
like "attached" or "enclosed" in the email body and then warning
you if nothing is attached. However it's quite possible to use a
VB macro to do the same job for free. Here are two [3, 4] free
downloadable macros for Outlook that work nicely but you'll need
to be quite computer savvy to sort it all out.
[1] http://www.sperrysoftware.com/Outlook/Attachment-Forget-Me-Not.asp $14.95,
[2] http://www.rsoutlook.com/us/prods/prod06.html $5.00
[3] http://www.danevans.co.uk/vba/
[4] http://pubs.logicalexpressions.com/Pub0009/LPMArticle.asp?ID=498

2.4  Free Sound File Format Converter
Thanks to modest subscriber "willemien" for suggesting this free
utility that will convert from wav, mp3, ogg, flac, aac, wma,
au, aiff, ogg, msv, dvf, vox, atrac, gsm, dss and other formats
into mp3 or wav. There's a paid version as well that handles
even more formats but the free version should meet the needs of
most users. Check out the other sound utilities at the site, all
of which work together to form a most impressive sound
processing suite.  Freeware, all Windows versions, 312KB.
http://nch.com.au/switch/index.html

2.5  Free IBM Spam Filter Spams Spammers
IBM has released FairUSE, a free server-side spam filter for
mail administrators that works by verifying user identity rather
than evaluating content. Equally interesting is the fact that
for each possible spam email detected, it sends a challenge
email to the originating computer rather than (usually faked)
email origin address. The idea is simple and sweet: filter the
majority of spam and at the same time grind the spammers'
computers into the ground.  According to the IBM website,
FairUSE "tries to find a relationship between the envelope
sender's domain and the IP address of the client delivering the
mail, using a series of cached DNS look-ups. For the vast
majority of legitimate mail, from AOL to mailing lists to vanity
domains, this is a snap. If such a relationship cannot be found,
FairUSE attempts to find one by sending a user-customizable
challenge/response. This alone catches 80% of UCE and very
rarely challenges legitimate mail. A future version will
incorporate Sender Policy Framework (SPF) or similar sender
identification systems." (404KB)
http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com/tech/fairuce

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

2.6  An Essential ZoneAlarm Accessory
2.7  An Easy way to Learn to Use Regular Expressions
2.8  How to Scan Without Using a Scanner
2.9  How to Restore Computers to a Standard Configuration

Got some top utilities to suggest? Send them to
mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com
 

3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
=================================================

3.1  Microsoft Security News
In March MS didn't issue any security patches. However, they
sure made up for this in April with the release of eight new
Security Bulletins, five of which were rated as "Critical."
Full details can be found here:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms05-apr.mspx

If you have the automated Windows Updates feature turned on then
it's likely that these patches will already have been installed
on your PC. If not, or you are unsure whether your PC is
updated, visit the Windows Update at
http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

3.2  New Microsoft Jet Vulnerability
Security firm HexView has released details of yet another flaw
in Microsoft's trouble-prone Jet Database Engine. The flaw could
allow a system to be compromised simply by opening a specially
crafted .mdb file.  No patch or workaround is currently
available.  Exploitation code is already circulating on the
internet so all users are advised to avoid opening any .mbd file
whose integrity can not be verified.
http://www.hexview.com/docs/20050331-1.txt

3.3  Serious Flaw in OpenOffice
A flaw has been reported in OpenOffice by AD-LAB which could
allow a system to be compromised simply by opening a suitably
crafted .doc file.  A patch is currently available and a full
updated version of OpenOffice that corrects the flaw is expected
shortly.
http://www.openoffice.org/issues/show_bug.cgi?id=46388

 3.4  Maxthon Browser Vulnerability
Security firm Secunia is carrying details of a serious flaw in
the Maxthon Browser. According to Secunia, "the vulnerability is
caused due to a design error where the security ID of a plug-in
is not properly protected from being included and accessed on an
external website via the script tag. This can e.g. be exploited
to read and write arbitrary files via the "readFile()" and
"writeFile()" API functions via directory traversal attacks.
The vulnerability has been reported in version 1.2.0 and 1.2.1.
Prior versions may also be affected." All users should update to
the version 1.2.2.
http://secunia.com/advisories/14918/
http://www.maxthon.com/download.htm

3.5  New Version of Firefox and Mozilla Fixes Security Flaws
The Mozilla organization has released Firefox 1.0.3 and Mozilla
1.7.7 that fix a known flaw in the product's JavaScript Engine.
The new versions are purely security related and contain no
product enhancements or operational fixes. Nevertheless, all
users of these products should update immediately.
http://www.mozilla.org/projects/security/known-vulnerabilities.html
http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/

3.6  New Rootkit Detector from Microsoft
Last month I mentioned Blacklight [1], the new rootkit detection
utility being distributed for free by security company F-Secure.
The release of that product sparked a war between the hacker
community and F-Secure with sustained denial of service attacks
on the F-Secure site.  Now Microsoft [2] has entered the fray by
including rootkit trojan detection capabilities in their
Malicious Software Removal Tool. The MS move highlights the high
level of danger presented by rootkit trojans.
[1] http://www.f-secure.com/blacklight
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.mspx
 

----------------- sponsored links -----------------------

The Best Windows Backup Software
At this site sixteen data backup products were reviewed and
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http://www.backup-software-reviews.com/

The Best SpyWare Detector
If you use Ad-aware or SpyBot you will be surprised just how
more effectively SpySweeper detects and protects your PC from
Adware, Spyware, Trojans and other malicious products. That's
why it won the prized "Editor's Choice" award in PC Magazine's
massive March 2004 survey of anti-Spyware products. Try the free
evaluation copy and see for yourself.
http://www.webroot.com/wb/products/spysweeper/index.php?rc=1132

The Best Remote Access Software
Our reviewer had given this product category away as "too slow,
tool clumsy and too unreliable" but after reviewing this product
he's changed his mind; "at long last a remote access solution
that actually works!  Quite frankly we agree with him, it's an
impressive product.  Read the full review here:
http://www.pcsupportadvisor.com/best_remote_access_software.htm

The Best Anti-trojan Scanner
Most users are not aware that their anti-virus scanner can only
provide a moderate level of protection against trojan programs
that try and take control of your PC. To really protect your
computer, you need a dedicated anti-trojan program. Our editor's
have reviewed  every major product on the market and have
concluded that two scanners stand head and shoulders above the
other contenders.
http://www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com

------------- end of sponsored links --------------------------
 
 

4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
=====================

4.1  The Fastest Flash Drive
As the capacity of thumb drives has increased so too has the
time taken to transfer information. Drives differ enormously in
speed from a few hundred kilobits per second to more than 10
Mbps. The Pocket Rocket from Memina at 18MBPS is among the
fastest, though this speed comes at some cost penalty compared
to slower drives. Capacities range from 512MB to 4GB with
corresponding prices of $79 to $469
http://pocketrocket.memina.com/

4.2  FireFox Extension Stores Web Pages
This free extension will save to your hard drive all the web
pages you visit using FireFox. This allows you to use your
desktop search program to search the pages and access them
offline. I've been using this for a while now and it's proved
very useful for storing a whole lot of material for later
offline research.
http://www.kenschutte.com/firefoxext/

4.3  How to Display Full Email Headers
Most email clients will display no email headers or only partial
headers. Sometimes it's useful to see the full headers - for
example, when you want to trace the path taken by an email in
reaching you. Another example is when you want to discover the
subscription email address you used for mass mailed publications
like Support Alert.  Almost all email clients have an option to
allow you see the full headers but it's often buried. At this
site [1] they show how to locate this information in different
email programs. The list of clients is extensive but a bit out
of date. The University of Alberta site [2] is more current but
features fewer clients. It also has a very clear explanation of
how to interpret the header information. It's definitely worth
spending a few minutes learning how this stuff actually works as
you'll find it surprisingly useful.
[1] http://128.175.24.251/headers.htm
[2] http://www.ualberta.ca/CNS/Security/headers-tutorial.html

4.4  Ten Things That Don't Make Sense
A fascinating compilation from the highly reputable New
Scientist magazine of phenomena still awaiting explanation. It
covers items as diverse as Homeopathy and Tetraneutrons.
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/space/mg18524911.600
 
  ** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

4.5  The Proxomitron Explained
4.6  FireFox Extension Lets Users Alter Web Pages
4.7  The Top Ten BitTorrent Sites
4.8  How to Buy Digital Media without DRM

5. TIP OF THE MONTH
===================

5.1  How to Back up Mozilla FireFox and Thunderbird

FireFox users need to regularly back up to guard against the
possibility that their profile gets corrupted or wiped after
installing a new extension or a new version of FireFox.

If you use Thunderbird then it's even more important that you
backup to ensure you don't accidentally lose your email
correspondence and account settings.

There are two ways to backup: use a backup utility or do it
yourself manually.

Backup Utilities

MozBackup is a free utility written by Pavel Cvrcek that will
automatically backup Firefox and Thunderbird as well as Netscape
and the full Mozilla suite. It works like a charm - the whole
process is driven by a Wizard so easy to use that even raw
beginners will be able to set up automatic backups. It also
offers encryption of the backup files and a complete push-button
restore option.

There are a couple of issues with MozBackup. First, it is no
longer being supported by the developer. Second, it only backs
up the essential information rather than all the information in
your Mozilla profile. That said, it's still the best option for
most users. You can get MozBackup here:

http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/index-old.html

There are also a couple of commercial utilities that will backup
FireFox and Thunderbird. I've not used them but you can find
details at http://www.rinjanisoft.com/

Manual Backup

Backing up FireFox and Thunderbird manually is as simple as
copying their respective profile folders to another location. If
you do that, youíll have a full backup with all your setting and
personal data saved.

The hard part is finding the profile folders. First up, they are
not located where you would expect to find them. Secondly, they
are located in different places for different versions of
Windows. Thirdly, they may be assigned random file names that
make them difficult to recognize.

On Windows 2000/XP machines the locations for your FireFox and
Thunderbird profiles are respectively:

C:\Documents and Settings\<Windows login/user name>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<Profile name>\
C:\Documents and Settings\<Windows login/user name>\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\<Profile name>\

On Windows 9x/Me PCs they can usually be found at:

C:\Windows\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<Profile name>\
C:\Windows\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\<Profile name>\

If you can't locate your profiles then check out this document
for more information:
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Profile_Folder#What_is_in_my_profile?

On my XP laptop the profiles are:

C:\Documents and Settings\Ian\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\default.ebq
C:\Documents and Settings\Ian\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\25ve0lz5.default

To back these up I copy the profiles to an external USB drive.
It's as simple as that. I do it manually but you could also use
Windows Scheduler or a backup manager to do the job
automatically.  Make sure, though, that FireFox and Thunderbird
are not running before you backup.

6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
=======================

6.1  Remove Web Ads, Popups, Cookies and Enhance Your Privacy
My favorite tool for filtering web content has long been "The
Proxomitron" but I'm well aware that it's way too complex for
most users to set up.  A lot simpler is the free Open Source
utility Privoxy. It's basically an enhanced version of the well
known JunkBuster utility and filters content in the same way as
JunkBuster by setting up a proxy server that sits between your
browser and the web. In addition to filtering ads, it can also
enhance your privacy and security by blocking cookies and
masking referrer and other browser information. Once installed
all that's involved is configuring your browser's proxy
settings, a 30 second job. Most users can simply use the default
settings and they'll be rewarded with some excellent and
intelligent filtering. Advanced users will find a lot to play
with. FireFox users won't find much at all as FireFox already
has excellent filtering via the free AdBlock extension.
Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.27MB.
http://www.privoxy.org/
http://computercops.biz/files/ProxN45.exe <= The Proxomitron
http://accs-net.com/smallfish/prox.htm <=  Proxomitron help
 
 ** Bonus Freebie for Premium SE Edition Subscribers **

6.2  A Better Un-installer for Windows
The Windows Add/Remove Programs applet in the control panel
constantly annoys me with its limitations. I've been looking
around for some time for a replacement that provides more
information about installed programs and more functionality.
Well I've hit the jackpot. This outstanding free utility
works just like the Windows Add or Remove Programs applet but is
a much more capable product than the Windows version. It gives
you much more information about each installed program including
product name, company, version, uninstall string, installation
folder and full Registry information. It also allows you to
delete orphaned and obsolete entries from the list as well as
the ability to save a list of all installed applications into a
text file or HTML.  As no installation is required, it can be
run from a CD or USB drive which makes it an excellent addition
to your diagnostic toolkit. Once you've used this program,
you'll never use the Windows un-installer again.
 

... full details in the Premium SE Edition of this newsletter.

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Internet Security Suite 2005.

With it's class-leading combination of anti-virus, anti-spam and
firewall protection it's one of the best options for protecting
your computer. However it's a bit expensive for most users.

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but your chances of scoring one are actually quite good. So if
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See you next issue

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com