Gizmo Richards' Support Alert Newsletter

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

 Free Edition
Issue
132, 20th April, 2006


IN THIS  FREE EDITION ISSUE:

0. EDITORIAL: Free Virtualization Software Get the Nod

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES
1.1 New Name for this Newsletter
1.2 Google Launches Calendar, Acquires Writely
1.3 Promising Anonymizing Network
1.4 FireFox Tips
1.5 Advanced Google
1.6 Video How-To Site
1.7 Good List of Portable Applications
1.8 Lots of Clever Free Utilities
1.9 Hot Prices for Computer Cabling (SE Edition)
1.10 The Final Solution to Computer Cooling Problems (SE Edition)
1.11 The Dangers of Public Proxy Servers (SE Edition)
1.12 Useful Windows Run Command Cheat Sheet
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 The Best Free Notes Organizer
2.2 The Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager
2.3 Display Outlook Calendar and Folder Tasks on Desktop
2.4 The Best Free Duplicate File Detector
2.5 Gizmo Stands Corrected
2.6 Best Free Outlook Express Backup Utility (SE Edition)
2.7 Slick Reminder Program Impresses (SE Edition)
2.8 The Best Free Audio Editing Utility (SE Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 More Security Woes for Internet Explorer
3.3 New Version of Firefox Available
3.4 New Version of CCleaner Released
3.5 Free Virtualization Software for Servers
3.6 Top Keyboard and Mouse Sharing Utility Updated
3.7 Trojan Hunter V4.5 Now Available
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 Free 512MB Flash Drive
4.2 How to Reset Your BIOS Password
4.3 Threat to Your Internet Privacy
4.4 Free Education Programs for Children
4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.6 Free Computer Games Galore (SE Edition)
4.7 How to Improve Your Intellect and How to Zap It (SE)
4.8 More Ways to Speed up Your BitTorrent Downloads (SE Edition)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 An Easier Way to Run Programs with Reduced Rights
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 Novel Program Launcher Delivers the Goods
6.2 Get Top Rated $99 Web Information Organizer for Free (SE)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
0.0 EDITORIAL

Last month's editorial on safe surfing drew a big response from subscribers. In particular, folks just raved about Sandboxie, the free utility that allows you to safely surf the net in a virtual layer on your PC.

Colin Drew's email was typical: "Gizmo, it's just like you said. This Sandboxie thing has changed my whole attitude to surfing. I'm no longer afraid where I go on the web or paranoid about downloading and trying out new stuff."

For those who missed last month's issue, Sandboxie is a freeware utility for users of Windows 2000 and later that creates a special contained "sandbox" environment on your PC. While browsing within the virtual sandbox provided by Sandboxie you are totally corralled off from other parts of your PC. Any files you download are isolated to the sandbox. Similarly, any programs that are executed only do so within the sandbox and have no access to your normal files, the Windows operating system or any other part of your PC.

A number of products offer similar capabilities to Sandboxie but the feature that distinguishes it from most of these is that it can be launched right from your desktop with no re-booting. That's a really big plus.

Usage is remarkably simple. To start a sandboxed browsing session you just click the Sandboxie icon in from the Quick Launch tray and this will launch your default browser in the sandbox. You can then use it in the normal way to browse to sites or download files.

If you run a downloaded file it will install normally but again will be corralled off from your real PC. Any files it writes to your hard drive, any changes to the Windows Registry or changes to the Windows startup will be held in a separate area within the sandbox. Similarly, any new processes running in your computer memory will be sandboxed.

After you have finished browsing you can right click the Sandboxie icon and delete all sandboxed files and processes and your PC will be returned to the exact same state it was in before the browsing session.

The advantage is clear: any spyware, trojans, keyloggers or other malware products that infected your PC while browsing will be eliminated.

It's an attractive idea and I can see why so many subscribers have been so enthusiastic about Sandboxie.

Now, with all you folks putting such faith in the product I feel I need to say a little more about Sandboxie and to answer a few questions.

First, how safe is Sandboxie?

I've done some more testing with Sandboxie to see how well it isolates your "real" PC from infection. These were tough tests involving visits to drive-by download sites that utilized Windows flaws to install up to 50MB of particularly nasty malware. Additionally, I installed a number of rootkit-disguised spyware programs, two keyloggers and a RAT trojan as well.

I'm happy to say Sandboxie provided full protection. Once I stopped all sandboxed processes and erased all sandboxed files, there were no active malware products left on my PC.

I'm not saying that Sandboxie provides 100% total protection; no single security product can provide that. What I can say from my testing is that Sandboxie provides a level of protection so high that you can use it with full confidence.

Even if you use Sandboxie for all your browsing you still need other security software installed on your PC: an antivirus scanner, an anti spyware scanner, a firewall and more. As I said, no security product is perfect, Sandboxie included. That's why you need several layers of defense just in case Sandboxie fails.

A second question I need to clarify about Sandboxie is its privacy.

Because Sandboxie erases all traces of a browsing session, it's clearly a good way of enhancing your privacy. Any record of the sites you visited and any files you downloaded will be erased.

Well, not quite. While all sandboxed files may have been deleted they could be undeleted by a skilled operator in the same way any deleted file on your PC may be recovered.

This may not be likely but it's quite possible. If you want to truly erase deleted Sandboxie material then you should clean your hard drive "unused" space after browsing using a forensic level file deleter such as the open source program "Eraser."

But even that won't guarantee complete privacy. There may be records of your browsing session at your ISP, your company's server and at the sites you visited.

This privacy risk is very small but can be reduced by using a free anonymizing service like Tor or Jap while browsing with Sandboxie. Reduced yes, but eliminated, no. Nothing you do on the Internet should ever be considered absolutely 100% private and confidential. Yes, the risk of disclosure is minute, but never engage in any internet activity based on the assumption that they can never be found out by a law enforcement authority or other agency with privileged access.

See you next month.

Sandboxie: Free for non-commercial use, Windows 2000 and later, 310KB.
http://www.sandboxie.com


Gizmo
editor@techsupportalert.com

PS This month I'm giving away six free copies of the the top rated Anti virus NOD32 plus lots of Google GMail invites. For details, see below.

Support Alert relies on paid subscriptions 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 free edition. It's also ad-free.

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 free edition. The SE Edition is a great deal and at $10 per year it's a bargain.

This month I'm giving away to new subscribers, six free copies of the the top rated Anti virus NOD32.

NOD32 is a brilliant program for protecting your PC yet it only consumes a modest amount of your computing resources. That's why I use it on my key work computers. At $39 it's good value but it's even better value when you can get it for free.

The six 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.

I'm also giving away invites to Google Gmail to new SE subscribers. Last month everyone who wanted one got one and I expect the same to happen this month. Just email me at editor@techsupportalert.com after subscribing to the Premium SE Edition and I'll send your invitation.

Even if you don't win anything you'll still get my special report "Gizmo's Desert Island Utilities" which outlines the software I use myself, including many free product

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

1.0 TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 New Name for This Newsletter

Many thanks to the 2000+ subscribers who wrote in with suggestions for a new name. There were so many clever suggestions that I was yet again reminded of the enormous collective intelligence of my subscribers. Folks, I feel humbled in your presence. Thanks. Of the thousands of suggestions, there was near unanimous agreement that the new name must mention "Gizmo." Bearing that in mind, I've selected a list of finalists and registered the domain names. Unfortunately, some of the best names had to be excluded as their domain names were taken. Now may I ask a favor? Could you please vote for the name you prefer most? You can vote just by clicking the lname you like best. As a thank-you, everyone who votes will get access to a great freebie that I've just discovered and didn't have time to include in this issue.

GizmoGold
GizmoGoodies
Gizmo's TekGold
Gizmo's TekTreats
Gizmo's TekGoodies
Gizmo's TastyTek
Gizmo's Support Alert

1.2 Google Launches Calendar, Acquires Writely

Google has officially launched Google Calendar [1], a free Ajax- powered web calendar application. It's a fast, searchable, multi- calendar with reminder capabilities that allows users to store and share appointments. It's tightly integrated with GMail and can import data from Yahoo Calendar and Microsoft Outlook. One of the most interesting features is the smart text recognition that allows automatic event classification based on your text descriptions. For example, if you typed in, "have lunch with Gizmo at 12.30 at Cafe Roma," it would be automatically classified in the event database without the need for manual selection. Your calendars can be optionally shared with nominated users via RSS and reminders can be sent via SMS. During the month, Google also announced that it had acquired the outstanding Ajax-based web word processor called Writely [2]. Between this, the web Calendar, GMail and Google Chat it's clear the much speculated-on Google free web-based application suite is starting to take shape.
[1] http://calendar.google.com/
[2] http://www2.writely.com

1.3 Promising Anonymizing Network

I2P [1] is an initiative to provide a fully distributed and self organizing anonymous P2P network. "I2P is designed to allow peers using I2P to communicate with each other anonymously — both sender and recipient are unidentifiable to each other as well as to third parties." It allows for anonymous web hosting within I2P and anonymous proxy access to sites outside I2P. It also supports BitTorrent file sharing. This is a complex product so I suggest you start with the noob's guide [2]. Also of interest is the web page [3] comparing various anonymizing systems such as Tor and Jap.
[1] http://www.i2p.net/
[2] http://forum.i2p.net/viewtopic.php?t=385
[3] http://www.i2p.net/how_networkcomparisons

1.4 FireFox Tips

Lots of useful hints including information I've not seen elsewhere.
http://the-edmeister.home.comcast.net/index.html

1.5 Advanced Google

Google can do much more than search. For example to convert 150 Euros to US dollars just type in "150 Euros in USD." To see some of Google's other amazing capabilities check out this cheat sheet.
http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html

1.6 Video How-To Site

Subscriber 'Hopper' writes: "Gizmo, here's another great site for just about anything to do with video. This is a very extensive site with sections on guides, tools, hardware, media and more. It's one of the first sites I check when trying to find a guide or special tool for a specific job." Nice find, Hopper. This site is just packed with useful information.
http://www.videohelp.com/

1.7 Good List of Portable Applications

WikiPedia has an excellent categorized list of programs that don't require installing and thus can be used on your USB Flash drive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_portable_applications

1.8 Lots of Clever Free Utilities

The Donation Coder site is offering hundreds of free utilities all full-featured with no nag screens. They use a novel licensing system: you have to register to get a free license key which allows you to download any number of programs on the site. This key lasts six months after which you must return to the site to download another free license key. After a year you are given a permanent license. Alternatively, you can make a once-up donation of any size and get a permanent key straight away. It's a clever and ethical way to encourage users to recognize the work done by freeware authors and I support it fully. The quality of the utility programs offered is very high and a number are unique in what they do. Highly recommended.
http://www.donationcoder.com

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

1.9  Hot Prices for Computer Cabling

1.10 The Final Solution to Computer Cooling Problems

1.11 The Dangers of Public Proxy Servers

1.12 Useful Windows Run Command Cheat Sheet


Got some great tech sites to suggest? Send them to: editor@techsupportalert.com

2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 The Best Free Notes Organizer

Evernote is designed to help you organize all those random bits of information hanging around your PC: bookmarks, articles, bits of text, interesting web links, shopping lists, to-do lists, recipes, tips, etc. It's a common problem but a difficult one to solve as the information is so disparate. Some folks have tried to solve the problem by using free form databases while others use beefed up text editors or multi-media snippet managers. Evernote approaches the problem by allowing you to store your notes on an endless "roll" of virtual paper. You can create notes on the roll, drag and drop them or cut and paste them. Images can be stored as well as text. You can access the stored information several different ways: by searching for keywords, by using a category classification such as "recipes", by the date it was created or any combination of these. Toolbars for Internet Explorer and Firefox allow web site information to be highlighted and moved directly to Evernote together with a hyperlink back to the web site. A similar capability is provided for Outlook email. Sure, all this sounds nice but does it work? I evaluated Evernote for a month by using it to collect information for this newsletter. In this demanding task, I found it effective in doing the job and to work just about as well as anything else I've tried including Microsoft's OneNote. It's got a few annoying weaknesses though. If you move an email message to another folder after you have posted the information to Evernote, it loses the link. This is a fatal flaw for me as I only have two mail folders - my inbox for unread mail and the deleted folder for everything else - so everything gets moved after I've read it. Additionally, the category system is weak. What is needed is the ability to assign tags not categories and to be able to search using those tags in the same manner as you can at del.icio.us and similar sites. That said, Evernote is an outstanding free product and will provide many folks with an excellent solution to note, snippet and general information management problems. Tablet computer users may want to check out the $34.95 "Plus" version that also handles hand-written notes. Freeware, Windows 2000 and later, 8.4MB
http://www.evernote.com/en/

2.2 The Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager

This review was prepared by regular contributor A.K. "I looked at a whole batch of free VDMs including VirtuaWin [1], Microdesk [2], Dexpot [3] and Virtual Desktop Toolbox [4]. VirtuaWin is a competent but basic product that depends on third-party modules for extra features but unfortunately there aren't many around. Microdesk comes with more standard features such as 99 desktops, configurability of each desktop (name, password, wallpaper and icons), an attractive interface and a configurable transparent menu above the tray bar to navigate between desktops. However, there is no detailed FAQ and no forum. Dexpot allows even more configurability for each of its 20 possible desktops with its well-organized interface and enables easy switching between desktops and quick movement of windows. However, the online documentation is very incomplete and the most active section of the online forum is in German. Virtual Desktop Toolbox is loaded with features which the other three lack. The negative is that it takes a little longer to learn. However, the pain is eased by the very thorough user's guide and tips and tricks folder included in the installation and also available online [5], [6]. Note that to unlock some time and feature restrictions to Virtual Desktop Toolbox's evaluation version you need to take out a free registration. The four VDMs I reviewed are all very capable products but I recommend Virtual Desktop Toolbox because of its outstanding features list and excellent support. Once you have learned how to use it you will improve your organization and productivity, perhaps drastically so."

[1] http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/
[2] http://www.download.com/Microdesk/3003-2346_4-10402623.html?tag=tab_rev
[3] http://www.dexpot.de/en/index2.html
[4] http://www.r2d2-software.com/
[5] http://www.r2d2-software.com/VDT/Tutorial/Default/index.htm
[6] http://www.activeboard.com/forum.spark?forumID=38157&subForumID=78042&action=viewSubForum

2.3 Display Outlook Calendar and Folder Tasks on Desktop

Desktask is a free utility that extracts your calendar and to-do information from Outlook and displays it on your desktop where it's easy to see. The partly transparent display is very attractively done and covers information for the coming week. DeskTask doesn't require Outlook to be running. Highly recommended. While at the site check out another of their free products called Find Favorites, a neat little favorites search engine. Freeware, Outlook 2000 and later, 446KB
http://www.carthagosoft.net/desktask.htm

2.4 The Best Free Duplicate File Detector

I must confess that I'm not a great fan of the practice of routinely deleting duplicate files from PCs. Sure it can free up some disk space but it can also get inexperienced users into a great deal of trouble. There are quite a few duplicate file detection utilities around but CloneSpy is the one that impresses me the most. It's certainly not the fastest program in its class but it's definitely the smartest. First, you can specifically select what is to be scanned and this can include multiple drives, multiple folders or just individual folders. Second, it has the ability to detect duplicates by CRC, by file name, by CRC and file name and by file name and size. Third, it will also detect zero length files. Fourth, the program does not need to be installed but can be run from the executable so it's a good candidate for your USB Flash drive toolkit. Finally, it throws up duplicates to the user in a way that at least makes you think about what you are deleting. Click-happy users may find this latter feature an annoyance; to me it's a safety feature. Safety feature or not, please read the help file and use with care. In particular do NOT include your Windows folder in your scan unless you are a knowledgeable technical user. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 608KB.
http://www.clonespy.com/cms/index.php

2.5 Gizmo Stands Corrected

In the March issue I incorrectly stated that the free MozBackup extension was no longer being developed. This is not the case; in fact, a new version is currently being prepared. I could claim this error was due to over-work, not enough sleep or even extra-terrestrials planting strange thoughts in my mind. The reality is I simply goofed.
http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

2.6 Best Free Outlook Express Backup Utility

2.7 Slick Reminder Program Impresses

2.8 The Best Free Audio Editing Utility


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

3.0 SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News

Patch Tuesday yielded five new security updates from Microsoft including three rated as critical. MS also released an update to a previously issued patch, MS06-005. This too was rated as "critical."

The new critical patches all cover very serious, widespread flaws that could allow a user's computer to be taken over by an attacker. They include a massive update to Internet Explorer for Win2K SP4 and later that fixes 10 separate vulnerabilities including the infamous Internet Explorer HTML createTextRange() flaw - see next item.

Also included in this IE update is a patch in the way IE interacts with certain ActiveX controls embedded in some web pages. Such web pages will no longer work normally once the IE patch has been applied. For example, a QuickTime or Flash animation may no longer start automatically but require manual interaction. This change has been foreshadowed by MS since late last year but it's very likely that some webmasters haven't yet updated their sites. In other words, expect to experience some surfing problems. If these changes impact you seriously it is possible to turn them off until June 2006 using a "compatibility patch" that was released along with the IE update. According to MS the compatibility patch will "temporarily return Internet Explorer to the previous functionality for handling ActiveX controls."

The two other critical updates cover a serious flaw in the Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) function that affects Windows PCs from Win98 onwards, and a problem with Windows Explorer in Win2K and later related to the way it handles COM objects.

All updates will be automatically distributed by Microsoft Update Service. Users who do not have automatic updates enabled should visit the Update Service [2] now.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms06-apr.mspx
[2] http://update.microsoft.com (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 More Security Woes for Internet Explorer

During the month, a serious new flaw was discovered in Internet Explorer and within days of the announcement hostile sites were using the exploit to infect visitor's PCs. The flaw related to the way Internet Explorer handled Web pages that contain non- standard calls to HTML objects using the createTextRange() method. According to MS [1], "System memory may be corrupted in such a way that an attacker could execute arbitrary code." Somewhat unusually, MS quickly acknowledged the flaw but still got users offside by stating that a fix would not be released until the next patch cycle due out on the 11th of April. In the interim they suggested all IE users turn off active scripting or switch to the IE7 beta which was not affected. Thankfully, a couple unofficial patches [2] were released by third parties. Following the incident numerous reports have been received of Firefox and Opera users admitted to hospital suffering from the effects of excessive laughter while some unconfirmed sources indicate possible fatalities in the Mac community from the same complaint. ;>)
[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/917077.mspx
[2] http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1943687,00.asp

3.3 New Version of Firefox Available

Firefox users shouldn't really be laughing too loudly as a new version of Firefox V1.5.02 has just been released packed with security fixes. Firefox supporters could, however, quite properly observe that these are pro-active fixes to cover possible future exploits as opposed to the recent IE fixes which simply patched exploits that were already in wide circulation. Whatever the politics, you should update your Firefox version now. Existing V1.5 users should have had the update delivered automatically, while other users can do so from the Firefox site.
http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/releases/1.5.0.2.html

3.4 New Version of CCleaner Released

The latest V1.27 release of this top rated file cleaning program adds Windows Hotfix uninstaller deletion along with cleaning for AVG, TUGZip and AntiVir and the Google Toolbar. Also new is a secure file deletion option. CCleaner is now my first choice for removing unwanted files and from my hard drive but I do have some reservations. First, I still think its default settings are a little too aggressive, so check them before you use it for the first time. Second, I wouldn't use this program to clean up your registry; this is too critical a task to leave to a general purpose cleaner. Instead, use a dedicated registry cleaner like EasyCleaner or JV16. Third, the latest version will install the Yahoo Toolbar by default so remember to uncheck it during the install process. Finally, CCleaner still isn't as good at finding temp files as Empty Temp Folders so I suggest you use both programs. Why not, they are both free.
[1] http://www.ccleaner.com/ Freeware, All Windows versions, 1.25MB
[2] http://www.danish-shareware.dk/soft/emptemp/ Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 667KB

3.5 Free Virtualization Software for Servers

Regular readers know I'm a great fan of VMWare's $169 workstation virtualization software. The good news is that you can now get the latest beta of the server version [1] for free. As the press release says, "With the new beta release of VMWare Server, VMWare takes hosted server virtualization to the next level with advanced features such as two-way Virtual SMP and support for Intel VT and 64-bit operating systems. Use VMWare Server to instantly provision a wide variety of free plug-and- play virtual appliances." Microsoft has responded by also making its $199 Virtual Server R2 [2] free!
[1] http://www.vmware.com/download/server/
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/virtualserver/default.mspx

3.6 Top Keyboard and Mouse Sharing Utility Updated

I've never understood why folks spend good money on expensive KVM boxes in order to switch their keyboard between computers when they can achieve much the same result using the free open source package called Synergy. It uses your network to switch between multiple PCs by sensing the cursor position on your monitor screen. In my case I just use my mouse to push the cursor to the top of my laptop screen and the cursor mysteriously appears on the screen of my desktop PC monitor which sits above my laptop. When the cursor is showing on the desktop monitor my laptop keyboard is connected to desktop PC. To return to my laptop I just slide the cursor down to the bottom of the desktop monitor and it re-appears on my laptop screen and re-connects the laptop keyboard to my laptop. It's all so seamless that it verges on the miraculous. It's really boosts my personal productivity by allowing me to work on two PCs simultaneously without ever worrying about switching keyboards. Synergy is cross platform and handles multiple machines so you could, if you wish, connect several Linux, Mac and Windows machines together using different screen edges. A new version of Synergy V1.3.1 has just been released and is now available from the web site. Free, Open Source, Windows 95 and later, Mac OS X 10.2+, Unix, 924KB.
http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/

3.7 Trojan Hunter V4.5 Now Available

A new version of the top rated anti-trojan program Trojan Hunter [1] is now available for download. The upgrade is free though existing registered users will need to apply for a new license file [2]. The main new feature of V4.5 is the provision of incremental updates for the signature file which means that users no longer have to download the full file every time. There have also been some additional enhancements that make the product more attractive to trial users. First, trial users can now run Live Update to update their rules file. Second, you can start a new trial using the current version even if your 30-day trial period with an old version has expired. I suggest all users download a trial version of V4.5 and scan their PC. It won't cost you a cent and you never know what you may find. If you are not familiar with Trojan Hunter you can check out my review here [3].
[1] http://www.misec.net/
[2] http://www.misec.net/trojanhunter/licensefile/
[3] http://www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com/review-trojan-hunter.htm


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

The Best Windows Backup Software
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The Best SpyWare Detector
PC Magazine 10.31.05 "Webroot's Spy Sweeper 4.5 is the most powerful antispyware tool we've seen yet. Its Comprehensive Removal Technology attempts to remove spyware completely in a single pass, and its behavior-based Active Shields prevent the installation of new threats on the cleaned system. Fancy names aside, our testing shows that the utility really works."

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 January 2005 survey of anti-Spyware products. Try the free evaluation copy of the new Version 4 and see for yourself.
http://www.webroot.com/consumer/products/spysweeper/index.html?acode=af1&rc=1132

The Best Remote Access Software
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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 editors 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 --------------------------

4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 Free 512MB Flash Drive

The day when you get free USB flash drives with your box of cornflakes is fast approaching. Buy.com is currently offering a 512MB USB drive for $30 with a $30 rebate and is throwing in a $10 Mother's Day gift voucher from ProFlowers as well. There is a catch; you have to take out a one month free trial for a product called PrivacyGuard but that looks manageable. Note: these special offers come and go. If it's gone by the time you read this newsletter there is no point writing to me - I can't do anything about it ;>)
http://www.buy.com/retail/product.asp?sku=202433992&adid=17070&dcaid=17070

4.2 How to Reset Your BIOS Password

Some good tips here, though reading the centered text used on this site could lead to insanity.
http://www.info-directory.info/Article301.html

4.3 Threat to Your Internet Privacy

Most folks have the Macromedia Flash Player installed in their PC but are unaware that it can be a real risk their privacy. For example, Flash's Shared Object technology may allow your browsing to be tracked without cookies. This risk is greatest with older Flash versions but even the latest version is not watertight. I suggest all users make sure they have the latest upgrade [1] and change their Flash security settings to ensure that Flash at least asks for permission before storing information. Full instructions can be found at the Macromedia site [2].
[1] http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash
[2] http://www.macromedia.com/software/flashplayer/security/

4.4 Free Education Programs for Children

I recently had an email from Marianne Wartoft about a site she has created featuring educational freeware for children. I checked it out and it looks terrific. As for the quality programs featured, I can't say but they certainly look engaging.
http://www.educational-freeware.com/

4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department

Fritter away your boss's money with these 57 Optical illusions [1]. They are all intriguing but this one at this site [2] is quite special. At this third illusion site [3] you'll find a good explanation why the room you just painted doesn't look quite the way you expected.
[1] http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/index.html
[2] http://www.patmedia.net/marklevinson/cool/cool_illusion.html
[3] http://www.echalk.co.uk/amusements/OpticalIllusions/colourPerception/colourPerception.html

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4.6 Free Computer Games Galore

4.7 How to Improve Your Intellect and How to Zap It

4.8 More Ways to Speed Up Your BitTorrent Downloads

 

5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 An Easier Way to Run Programs with Reduced Rights

Most Windows users operate as a user with full administrator rights. It's the default Windows setup option so it's what most people use whether they are aware of it or not.

Having full administrator rights gives the user the highest level of privilege possible. It means that Windows will allow a user to pretty well do anything they want on their PC. That includes installing any program they choose, even programs that change the way the operating system works.

This is convenient for the user but is the source of many of Windows security problems. Many malware programs including rootkits require administrator privileges to install. If users operated with reduced rights such programs couldn't as easily infect their PCs.

On other operating systems such as Linux and Mac OS X, users normally run with reduced rights. It's one of the reasons why such systems have a better security record.

The more recent versions of Windows do in fact allow users to be assigned to different user groups with different privileges. In order of reducing privilege these are: "administrator", "power user" group, "user" group and "guest". However, most folks, me included, find that operating as anything other than an administrator is a pain in the butt. Many programs, for example, won't install correctly. Others install but don't function properly.

You can work your way around this by having two user accounts on your PC: one with full administrator rights and the other with reduced rights. You sign on as the reduced rights user for normal PC use and then logout and use the administrator rights user account for program installation, registry editing and other demanding tasks.

It sounds fine but I can assure you that constantly switching users or logging in and out of these accounts is a pain in the butt as well.

Another approach is to always operate as a reduced privilege user and use the special Windows "run as" function from the command window or context menu when you needed to run a program that requires administrator privileges. It's a slightly more workable solution but not exactly convenient as you need to enter your admin account password every time. It's also unsuited to non-technical users.

Recently, subscriber Erik Wasberg wrote in to tell me about a third option. It too is for experienced users but it's more convenient than using Run As.

It involves the use of an Open Source utility called RunAsAdmin Explorer Shim. Let's call it RES.

RES is a Windows XP program that allows you to sign-in as an administrator but work within a Windows shell with reduced rights.

It works by placing an icon in the system notification area of your tray. Clicking this icon brings up a menu that allows you to run programs with several different level of trust from "administrator" through to "user."

This means that you can do your normal day-to-day work in a restricted rights shell but easily run any program that requires elevated privileges without the need to logoff or enter your admin password. You have the advantage of safety and convenience at the same time.

It's a neat idea, so neat that you wonder why it wasn't built into Windows XP.

There's not a lot of documentation for RES, barely enough to work out how to install the program and use it. There are also two versions available: a stable V1 release and a V2 beta. I installed the latter and it's working fine though I it took a few setting changes and reboots to get everything working perfectly. It's definitely not a task for the faint hearted or technically challenged but neither is using "run as."

To un-install RES start up a command window with admin rights and enter the command c:\Windows\Shim\Explorer.exe /r

Logoff as the current user and when you re-login, you'll have the usual rights for that user account. You can then delete the c:\Windows\Shim\Explorer.exe folder.

Non technical users will have to wait for the arrival of Windows Vista to get a satisfactory solution to the user rights problem. Vista promises to have a much more sophisticated system for managing user privileges than XP. If it delivers, we can all look forward to safer computing. Then again Windows XP was supposed to be the "safest Windows ever." ;>)

Resources:

Running user accounts with reduced privileges
http://cybercoyote.org/security/not-admin.shtml
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/luawinxp.mspx

Using the RunAs Command
http://vlaurie.com/computers2/Articles/xprunas.htm
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/runas.mspx?mfr=true

RunAsAdmin Explorer Shim
http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=127612

6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 Novel Program Launcher Delivers the Goods

Look at any user's desktop and there's a good chance you will see it littered with shortcuts to commonly used programs. That's fine but if you have too many it can take quite a while to find what you want.

Many folks address this problem by using an application launcher. Commonly these employ a dockable toolbar containing shortcuts to various programs on the PC. The toolbar can usually be hidden so it doesn't take up desktop space.

I've never been keen on these things as often they achieve little more than what's available from the Windows Start menu.

However, I've found an application launcher that actually really works. It's called Find&Run Robot.

It doesn't use a launch bar approach but rather allows you to locate an application by simply typing its name into a query box.

You rarely even have to type the full name; mostly all you need do is just type a couple of letters. Find&Run Robot instantly displays any program that contains the letters you typed in.

Its power lies in the fact that it's lightning fast. It works on a find-as-you-type basis. Let's say I'm looking for Excel. When I type the letter "E" I instantly see all programs whose name contains the letter E. There are quite a few as you can imagine. If I then type in the second letter "X" the list shortens immediately to only those programs that contain "EX". By the time I type in the "C" the list is down to one program, Excel itself. Double clicking then executes the program. The whole thing takes less than 2 seconds.

I've seen a few programs that work like this but Find&Run Robot works the best of any I've tried. To start with, you can bring up the search box instantly using either a hotkey or by clicking the tray icon. Second, the program search area is totally configurable. Even the scoring system that determines the list order is configurable. Third, it's only visible when you need it and that's the way it ought to be.

Users of Microsoft Desktop Search don't need Find&Run Robot as they already have the same capabilities direct from the search box.

Find&Run is free but only available under a rather strange license system, see item 1.8 above for full details.

Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.57MB

http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/findrun/index.html

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As Editor of this newsletter I'm a prodigious web surfer, blog reader and a heavy user of RSS feeds. I've looked at dozens of products to help me organize all the information but found only one that does exactly what I need.

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See you next issue

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com