Gizmo Richards Support Alert Newsletter - Premium SE Edition "Gizmo's top picks of the best
Tech resources and utilities"
Premium SE Edition,  Issue 139
16th November, 2006
If you prefer you can read this issue online from the Supporters' Area here

IN THIS PREMIUM ISSUE:

0. EDITORIAL: Six Intrusion Prevention Products Tested

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES
1.1 Use Instant Messaging Without an IM Client
1.2 Help for Windows 98 Users
1.3 Top Tech Newsletter Ceases Publication
1.4 The Best BitTorrent Sites
1.5 Free File Conversion Site
1.6 Free Utilities for Techies
1.7 Fix for Internet Explorer 7 File Menu Location
1.8 Free Widgets Galore (SE Edition)
1.9 Free Mac Applications (SE Edition)
1.10 Great Freeware Site (SE Edition)
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 A Really Fast Alternative to Add/Remove Programs
2.2 Firefox Extension Shows Website Location
2.3 New Free Tech Tool from Sysinternals
2.4 Free Goodies for Excel Users
2.5 Utility Permanently and Securely Deletes Files
2.6 Best Free XML Editor? (SE Edition)
2.7 Free Diagnostic Tool (SE Edition)
2.8 Free PIM Impresses (SE Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Internet Explorer 7 Released
3.3 Firefox 2.0 Released
3.4 Office 2000 Users Read This
3.5 AVG Free Anti-virus to be Available from Microsoft
3.6 New AVG AV 7.5 Free, New AVG Rootkit Detector
3.7 Ewido Now Called AVG Anti-Spy
3.8 SpySweeper Now Available with Anti-virus Scanner
3.9 Patches Available for 0-Day Flaws
3.10 Some Light Hearted Relief from Security
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 A Cheaper Way to Buy Online
4.2 Open Source Software Listing
4.3 Your Own Seal of Approval
4.4 Screensavers with Street Cred
4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.6 When Microsoft Buys Firefox (SE)
4.7 21st Century Thesaurus (SE Edition)
4.8 The Cheapest Way to Buy Books (SE Edition)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 The Three Most Under-utilized Keyboard Shortcuts
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 A Tray Clock Replacement with a Difference
6.2 Free Utility Logs Installation Changes (SE Edition)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0.0 EDITORIAL

I've just finished reviewing six intrusion prevention products (HIPS) and have been impressed with what I've seen.

These products have come a long way in the last year or so. Unlike their first generation predecessors they don't swamp you with dozens of warning messages, most of which are false alarms

In fact these latest products are relatively quiet. So quiet that at times I wondered whether they were working.

But they were working, that I can assure you. Indeed I was generally impressed with just how well they worked. No, they were not perfect in their detection, but no security product is. However they did perform well enough to make me question my previous ideas on the best way to layer computer security defenses.

I'm now wondering if a good broad spectrum signature scanner such as NOD32 combined with one of the latest HIPS products may provide a better balance of protection than using two or more signature scanners.

It's an idea I'm going to put to the test but at the moment it's just that; an idea.

The six HIPS products I tested included five new generation HIPS and Process Guard, a top performing first generation product that I included to provide a comparison.

Although all six qualify as HIPS, they work in quite different ways.

Prevx1 is a kind of specialized signature scanner that uses a centralized user-driven database to check its CRC style signatures.

DefenseWall can be best described as a Sandbox like GreenBorder but working under a different conceptual model.

Blink uses a system firewall, application firewall, behavioral analysis and some other tricks to provide a genuine multivalent solution. Think of it as a HIPS with a firewall rather than a Firewall with a HIPS and you'll get the general idea.

Cyberhawk uses adaptive behavioral analysis based on local rules but is periodically updated through feedback from the Cyberhawk Secure Community.

Online Armor also uses behavioral analysis but combines this with white listing and black listing.

Process Guard's central role is to protect key processes and challenge new processes. It has some basic white listing but like other earlier generation HIPS, it relies a lot on user input for guidance.

So how do they perform? The correct answer is "well, but differently."

Explaining that cryptic answer takes far more space than I have available here, so check out my full web report and all will be revealed. No I'm not teasing. Certain subjects require time and space for proper treatment and this is one of them. You can read the full report here:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/security_HIPS.htm

See you next month.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com

1.0 TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 Use Instant Messaging Without an IM Client

I don't use IM at all and don't even have an IM client installed on my PC. On the very rare occasions I do need to send a message I use a free web service from meebo.com [1]. They support a wide range of systems including Yahoo, Messenger, Jabber, AIM, ICQ, MS and more. It also comes in handy for IM users trying to contact friends on incompatible networks.
http://www18.meebo.com

1.2 Help for Windows 98 Users

Just because Microsoft has abandoned its support for Windows 98, it doesn't mean everyone has to. This classic Windows 98 site is still being updated and is a mandatory visit for all Win98 users. The resources offered are quite amazing, including a downloadable unofficial Windows 98 Service Pack 2, a tutorial teaching how to incorporate ME enhancements into Win98 and much more. The site layout will give you eye strain but that's a small price to pay for the great tips and utilities.
http://www.mdgx.com/

1.3 Top Tech Newsletter Ceases Publication

Fred Langa's tech newsletter "The LangaList" will merge with Windows Secrets Newsletter in November. Fred's 140,000 subscribers will be moved over to the combined publication which will have a total subscription of around 250,000. Fred will still be around; in fact he will be Editor of the combined publication. The LangaList was one of the few remaining truly personal newsletters and will be sorely missed. Its demise supports the publishing adage that the practical limit for a one man newsletter is between 100 - 150,000 subscribers. After that, the administrative load is more than one person can bear. I know the truth of this; with 120,000 free edition subscribers I'm really feeling the strain.
http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2006/2006-10-30.htm#1

1.4 The Best BitTorrent Sites

Here's a brief review of the ten most popular torrent sites. I was quite surprised which site has the most torrents linked. Thanks to JW for the find.
http://comparebt.blogspot.com/

1.5 Free File Conversion Site

Subscriber Charles G Koenig writes "Gizmo I found this file conversion site and it's a winner. You should take a look." Well I did Charles and it is very good. It handles five image formats, 14 document formats, 11 video and nine audio. Just point to a file on your PC, select the output format and the file is uploaded to the Zamar server and you then get an email with a link to the converted document. It's free but do read the terms of service. There's nothing threatening in it but you should be aware of such things before uploading any of your files to a third party site.
http://www.zamzar.com/

1.6 Free Utilities for Techies

This site offers a number of small specialized utilities. My favorites were the utility that prevents automatic reboots after Windows updates and the remote reboot program. There's also a whole set of programs that allow Sysadmins to disable USB, CD and floppy drives on user's machines. Note: the free stuff is at the bottom of the page. Thanks to Joe S, for this one.
http://www.intelliadmin.com/downloads.htm

1.7 Fix for Internet Explorer 7 File Menu Location

Anyone who has installed IE7 will have noticed that standard top application menu bar (File, Edit, View etc) is no longer visible. You can easily turn it on but it shows on the second toolbar line over to the right hand side of the screen rather than in its familiar position at the top. You can either get used to it or alternatively apply this registry patch that restores it to its traditional position.
http://www.dslreports.com/forum/remark,16040352

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

1.8 Free Widgets Galore

Regular contributor Andreas Büsing writes "Gizmo, yourminis.com is a personalized dashboard of minis (mini applications, also known as widgets) that let you perform specific tasks, and get information and features from all over the web in one place. You can configure minis to see your email, check the weather, watch Youtube videos, search the web, browse Flickr photos, read news and RSS feeds, save notes & to dos, listen to music, and much, much more." Thanks Andreas.
http://www.yourminis.com/

1.9 Free Mac Applications

Two more sites with links to free Mac programs.
http://alej745.tripod.com/grassknucklers/Blank.html
http://hmatt.com/mac/macbookfreeware.html

1.10 Great Freeware Site

I like sites run by freeware programmers and JackAss JoeJoe's is one of the best. Of the programs offered I was quite impressed by the bulk renaming utility called "Rename Master" though the clipboard extender is pretty impressive as well.
http://www.joejoesoft.com/

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

2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 A Really Fast Alternative to Add/Remove Programs

Anyone who has uninstalled a program using the Windows Add or Remove Programs applet in the Control Panel knows how agonizingly slow it is to load. Safarp is a free Open Source replacement that loads in a flash. Not only does it load quicker, it also offers more options including the ability to search for a program and remove defunct entries. Safarp can be run as a stand alone program or installed and integrated into the Control Panel. Free Open Source, Windows 2000 and later, 133KB.
http://wistinga.online.fr/safarp/

2.2 Firefox Extension Shows Website Location

A subscriber recently wrote asking me if I knew the name of a useful Firefox extension he had mislaid that shows the location of a website on a Google map. I hadn't heard of it but after a bit of Googling I came up with Shazou, a free extension that shows the geo-location of any site with just a click on an icon in the Firefox status bar. It's not only for the curious minded, it's an excellent security tool that allows you to check that a website is located where you expect it to be. For example, if what appears to be your banking site is located in Romania, then you clearly have a problem. Unless that is, you are a Romanian :>) Note that this product only shows the location of the web server on which the site is hosted. It's quite possible for a scam site run by Eastern European criminals to be hosted in an apparently trustworthy location such as San Francisco.
https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/2993/

2.3 New Free Tech Tool from Sysinternals

When Microsoft bought Sysinternals, many feared for the worst. So far these fears have proved unfounded. Indeed the recent move to the Microsoft TechNet site [1] has if anything, improved the availability of Sysinternal's utilities. The only loss so far has been the withdrawal of source code in line with Microsoft's long standing policy on such matters.

New on the TechNet site is Process Monitor v1.01 [2], "a system monitoring tool that not only replaces Regmon and Filemon by including file system and registry monitoring, but adds process, thread, and DLL monitoring as well as advanced filtering, event information, and basic data mining capabilities."

I've only played around with this for an hour or so but can say its one of the most powerful diagnostic utilities I've seen. However, the sheer quantity of information produced and the essentially low level technical nature of that information means this utility will only be of value to hard core techies. They, however, will find this product invaluable. Like most Sysinternals tools, it requires no installation. Freeware, Win2K-SP4, WinXP-SP2 and 64 bit, Server 2K-SP3, Vista, 913KB.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/default.mspx
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/processesandthreads/processmonitor.mspx

2.4 Free Goodies for Excel Users

Subscriber Mark Kealiher writes "Giz, I've found a utility that may save some of your readers a lot of time when using MS Excel. I work with many text files that I import into Excel for editing reasons. Often I find myself needing to combine columns, find and delete duplicates, etc. I haven't had the time yet to learn complex formulas and macros and don't want to. The free Excel add-in tool at this website [1] automates a lot of the operations I need." Nice find Mark. I note that its functionality extends well beyond text manipulation and includes worksheet comparison, unit conversion and more. I think most serious Excel users would find something of value here. You should also check out the ASAP [2] utilities I mentioned in issue #121. This freebie provides over 300 individual functions and enhancements for Excel.
[1] http://www.excel-extools.com Freeware, Excel 97-2003, 609KB
[2] http://www.asap-utilities.com/ Freeware, Excel 97-2003, 1.1MB.

2.5 Utility Permanently and Securely Deletes Files

Most users are aware than deleted files are not really deleted from their hard drive but are simply flagged as deleted. That means they can be easily recovered IF another newer file hasn't been written over the top of them. This is a good thing when you've accidentally deleted a file but a bad thing in terms of security and privacy. Indeed most folks would be shocked if they knew what could be recovered from the "unused" space their hard drives. Your security can be greatly improved by using a special utility to overwrite deleted files and unused hard drive space. Such utilities usually overwrite the space many times using carefully selected data pattern standards such as Gutmann and NISPOM, the DoD standard just to make sure the data can't be recovered. The freeware program Eraser [1], is a good example of such a program. Some users run it regularly to permanently erase the unused disk space on their drives but it's overkill if you just want to permanently remove a single "sensitive" file. For that task you might want to look at SuperShredder [2], a free utility from AnalogX. It allows you to delete a file by simply dragging and dropping it into the application or by using the right click context menu. It's fast, secure and highly configurable. Just the thing for a particular file you want to remove with a high degree of certainty. Be aware though that no overwriting tool can ever provide 100% security. It's really hard to remove absolutely all data traces from magnetic media and folks armed with laboratory style forensic tools like those used by the FBI may still have a small chance of recovering data even if overwritten many times. If you really want to hide something from the law, you'll probably need to take a hammer to your disk drive. However, Eraser and SuperShredder will provide a level of security that will meet most normal requirements.
[1] http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/ Free GNU license, all Windows versions, 2.4MB
[2] http://www.analogx.com/contents/download/system/shred.htm Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 156KB

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.6 Best Free XML Editor?

Subscriber David Pineau writes "Gizmo, I've done some searching for a good editor for manipulating XML files, and settled on "XML Marker"'. I've found it fantastic for browsing and modifying XML files, simple enough for beginners but with many nice features and a nice customizable user interface." Nice find David. If any subscriber knows of a better XML Editor, could you email me at editor@techsupportalert.com?
http://symbolclick.com/

2.7 Free Diagnostic Tool

I've had quite a few subscriber letters asking about the Spy-The-Spy utility [1] that JW mentioned in his comparative review of Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost [2]. It's a free utility that's been around for quite a while that monitors system folders and flags any additions, deletions and changes. It doesn't however, analyze these changes; you have to do that. I use it from time to time when I want to really know what's happening on my PC. In fact every time I use it, I always get surprised by just how much normal churning activity takes place in my system folders. That can make locating suspicious activity more difficult, but still easier than using a disk activity monitoring tool like Sysinternal's Diskmon [3]. Spy-The-Spy not only monitors system folders, but any specified folder and has the ability to quarantine a file or kill a process, which can be useful for removing malware. Overall it's a powerful diagnostic tool to have available in your toolkit, even if you only use it occasionally. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 500KB.
[1] http://www.mediachance.com/free/spythespy.htm
[2] http://www.techsupportalert.com/drive-imaging-reviews.htm
[3] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/utilities/Diskmon.mspx

2.8 Free PIM Impresses

Abassis Work Desktop is a $59 commercial PIM and project manager that's available to individuals for non-commercial use. It's a pretty impressive product that offers contact management, calendaring, to-lists, reminders, document filing and simple project management. Backup is built into the product. The only thing I could see that was missing was an integrated email client. Thanks to regular contributor Leib Moscovitz for this one. Free for non commercial use, All Windows versions, 1.7MB
http://www.abassis.com/index.html


Got some favorite utilities to suggest? Send them to supporters@techsupportalert.com

3.0 SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News

This month we again saw 0-day exploits for Microsoft products circulating on the web. The first [1], a critical flaw in Internet Explorer XML Core Services, allowed attackers to execute remote code in the target PC. All versions of IE including IE7 were affected. The second [2] involving a problem with the WMI Object Broker ActiveX Control in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, could allow an attacker to take complete control of a machine.

Patch Tuesday Nov 14, yielded six patches five of which were rated as "Critical." These included yet another Internet Explorer cumulative patch plus fixes for various problems in Microsoft Agent and Workstation Service. A fourth "Critical" update fixed the XML Core services flaw mentioned above while the fifth covered a problem in version 6 of the Macromedia Flash Player distributed with some versions of Windows.

Full details of the November updates can be found here [3]. All the updates are distributed automatically by the Microsoft Update Service. If you have any doubts that you have received the updates, visit the Update Service [4] now.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/927892.mspx
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/927709.mspx
[3] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms06-nov.mspx
[4] http://update.microsoft.com (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 Internet Explorer 7 Released

Well it's finally arrived and let me tell you folks, it has been worth the wait. Microsoft has done a great job with IE7 and I can't think of any reason why home users with Windows XP SP2 wouldn't want to install it. Users of early operating systems won't have to make a decision; it's for XP SP2 and Vista only.

Sure IE7 doesn't set new standards for browsers or advance the state of the art but compared to IE6, it is a remarkable leap forward.

IE7 is currently available as a 15.1MB manual download [1] and will be progressively distributed to all non-corporate users in the coming months via the Windows Update service. Well, more accurately all Windows XP SP2 users will be first asked if they want it, even those who have set their Windows to download and install automatically.

The first thing that strikes you about IE7 is the new toolbar arrangement. Esthetically it's a success. Functionally it's a mixed bag. The whole toolbar setup has been changed to fit in with the Vista standard so rather than have the familiar application menu at the top (File, Edit, View etc) there is a navigation bar.

In fact the application menu doesn't show at all, though you can turn it on. Even then it shows awkwardly on the second line and can't be moved. There is a patch though, to move it back to the top line. See item 1.7 for details.

That's the bad news. Well not quite; IE7 still isn't 100% standards compliant. Almost everything else is good news.

At the top of the list is the improved security. ActiveX is now opt-in and can be easily enabled or disabled through the information bar. Add-ons can also be more securely and more easily managed and there's an excellent phishing filter built-in, plus better notification about the security of sites being visited through the security status bar. And this is just a short list of the enhancements. Suffice to say IE7 is way safer than IE6.

It's not only safer, it's better. At last there is tabbed browsing. It's a good implementation too, with moveable tabs, individual tab closing, the ability to save groups of tabs as a session plus lots of configurable settings.

There's also an RSS reader, a choice of search engines, improved CSS support, better AJAX compatibility and a whole lot more.

If you want additional features, there are heaps of add-ons available. Nowhere near as many as Firefox but enough to allow most users to heavily customize their browsing experience.

It also loads fast; way faster than Firefox though browsing speed itself feels little different from Firefox.

So is it time to give up Firefox?

No way. First, my Firefox extensions offer me a functionality I'm not prepared to give up. Second, IE will remain the focus for future security attacks. Sure it is now safer and more resistant to attack, but that won't stop the bad guys. IE7 will be broken and it will be broken often. That, I can assure you.

Worse still, when it is broken, Microsoft will be slow fixing the flaws. This too, I can assure you :>)

PostScript: Security firm Secunia has advised that Internet Explorer 7 is vulnerable to a browser window injection vulnerability that plagued earlier versions of IE. On November 6 Microsoft advised of a separate critical 0-day flaw in XML Core Services that affects all IE versions including IE7 ;>)

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/default.mspx

3.3 Firefox 2.0 Released

Just days after the release of IE7, Firefox V2 was officially launched.

While IE7 represents a major upgrade of IE6, Firefox V2 is by comparison a much smaller upgrade of V1.5. In fact my wife didn't even notice she was using a new version!

Had she looked a little more closely she would have seen the user interface had been prettied up with sleeker, classier icons and a more logical menu layout. No big deal but definitely a step forward.

The most important changes however, are the addition of anti-phishing protection to warn users of suspicious sites, easier subscription to RSS feeds, better tab management, including close buttons on each tab, enhanced web search with auto-complete, inbuilt spell check for web forms, persistent sessions that allow you to restart where you left off, integrated management of extensions and themes ("add-ons") and a new Windows installer that is less problem prone. You can find the full change list here [1]

Many of these capabilities were already available in V1.5 through extensions. Indeed the tab management available through the Tab Mix Plus extension offered more with V1.5 than is standard in V2. That's why I've installed it for use with V2 as well.

Certain problem areas remain. It still loads too slowly, it still uses too much memory and it badly needs an integrated RSS reader.

That said it's still a safer, more configurable browser than IE7 and will remain my browser of choice.

Firefox 2 will be automatically downloaded to Firefox V1.5 users via the automatic update service. Alternatively you can download it from here [2].

Firefox V1.5 will remain supported until April 24, 2007. Indeed a new version 1.5.0.8 [3] with a number of security enhancements has just been released.

[1] http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/2.0/releasenotes/
[2] http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/ 5.6MB
[3] http://releases.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/1.5.0.8/win32/en-US/

3.4 Office 2000 Users Read This

Subscriber Doug de Hart recently wrote asking did I know what why the many patches for Microsoft Office being distributed via the Microsoft Update service were not installing on his machine. It made no sense to me but Doug finally discovered the answer [1]: Offices Updates are not distributed to users of Office 2000 and earlier. You have to go to the Office Update site [2] to download the updates manually. I suggest you do it now and make sure you have the installation CD handy.
[1] http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2006/06/12_security_patches_plug_micro.html
[2] http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/default.aspx

3.5 AVG Free Anti-virus to be Available from Microsoft

Grisoft has announced [1] that "Microsoft is making AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 and AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition available via Windows Security Center as a Windows Vista security solution. The solutions are available in the latest release of the Windows Vista beta program and will be available in the commercial release." Will the next step be for Microsoft to buy GriSoft? An interesting prospect but pure speculation.
[1] http://sourcewire.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=28035&hilite=

3.6 New AVG AV 7.5 Free, New AVG Rootkit Detector

A number of worried AVG AV Free users have written to tell me that they have received an email saying AVG AV Free V7.1 will be discontinued on the 15th of January. Quite so, but what the letter doesn't make clear is the reason it is being discontinued is that it has been replaced by a new free version 7.5. Full details here [1]. There's more news from Grisoft; they have released a new anti-rootkit scanner as a free beta. I gave it a quick spin and it gave me the impression of a me-too exercise rather than an advancement in the state of the art. Final judgment will have to wait full testing. Features include selectable quick and full scan modes, optional scanning of NTFS alternate data streams and removal capabilities. It is available at the Grisoft Beta site [3], providing you register, or from many download sites including MajorGeeks [2]. Free Beta, Windows 2K and later, 1MB.
[1] http://free.grisoft.com/doc/1
[2] http://beta.grisoft.cz
[3] http://www.majorgeeks.com/AVG_Anti-Rootkit_d5249.html

3.7 Ewido Now Renamed to AVG Anti-Spy

In yet another Grisoft development, the company has renamed and purportedly upgraded the Ewido scanner they recently acquired to "AVG Anti-Spy V7.5. It's part of the process of re-positioning it from an anti-trojan to an anti-spyware product. The free-for-private-use version will remain so, and I notice the trial period for the paid version has been extended from 14 to 30 days. The free and paid versions are in fact, the same. At the end of the trial period a number of features, including the real-time monitor, automatic updates and self protection from termination are automatically disabled. Ewido/AVG Anti-Spy remains my top choice as an on-demand spyware and anti-trojan scanner to backup your primary anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. In this role, the free version is all that is needed.
http://free.grisoft.com/doc/20/lng/us/tpl/v5

3.8 SpySweeper Now Available with Anti-virus Scanner

WebRoot has now added optional anti-virus scanning capabilities to V5.2 of their class-leading anti-spyware product, Spyware Sweeper, using technology licensed from anti-virus vendor Sophos. The initial feedback I've had from subscribers has been negative: the anti-virus scan is poorly integrated and there is a real performance hit on your PC. At this stage I suggest you stick with the core SpySweeper product, which is excellent, and take a pass on the AV capability.
http://www.webroot.com/consumer/products/spysweeperwithantivirus/

3.9 Patches Available for 0-Day Flaws

Subscriber Phill-J writes "Gizmo, I expect you've come across these guys already, but just in case you haven't, they're creating patches for unpatched Microsoft vulnerabilities including patches for windows products that are no longer supported by MS." Thanks Phill for that. I can see this service being of real value to those with mission critical applications. I must however admit to being very cautious about applying third party patches when even Microsoft's own patches can cause problems.
http://isotf.org/zert/

3.10 Some Light Hearted Relief from Security

Subscriber Briard has written an amusing account of the problems he encountered trying to restore the performance of his PC. It's funny, tragic and bound to resonate with many users.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/cleaning-windows.htm"

4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 A Cheaper Way to Buy Online

Regular contributor JW writes "Gizmo, RetailMeNot comes from the BugMeNot folks but instead of people sharing login information, they share coupon codes" Sounds good JW. Every time I buy something online and have nothing to enter into the coupon code box I feel like I'm paying more than someone else.
http://www.retailmenot.com

4.2 Open Source Software Listing

It's hard to keep track of all the Open Source software that's now available. At this site you can quickly check out some of the best projects. In fact I found the next item there.
http://open-source.onestop.net/

4.3 Your Own Seal of Approval

"Welcome to the Official Seal Generator. Enter some text, choose a border and an emblem, pick your colors, and click the 'Go' button. An Official Seal will be generated for you. Collect 'em, trade 'em, put 'em on your website, or e-mail 'em to your friends."
http://www.says-it.com/seal/index.php

4.4 Screensavers with Street Cred

Let's face it; I'm just not a screensaver/theme sort of dude. That's the reason I've only ever recommended two screensavers in the entire time I've edited this newsletter. Yes, only two but they were great, so I'm going to mention them again. The first from issue #109 was the Karalon screensaver that displays in real-time inbound/outbound packets, running processes, TCP/UDP socket status and more. It's non-time-limited shareware but if you shell out $19.95 for registration you get a smoother login. The second, from issue #116, is Toby Newman's Blue Screen of Death screensaver that "pretends to cause a crash, 're-boots', and installs Linux in disgust! Then watch who logs in ;)" It's freeware. OK before you write, I know about Sysinternal's BSOD screensaver [3]. It's cool too though I do prefer Toby's
[1] http://www.majorgeeks.com/download.php?det=4227 1.8MB
[2] http://www.asktoby.com/#bsod 236KB, requires Flash
[3] http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/BlueScreen.html (47KB)

4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department

This time-wasting site recommended by subscriber Callie Jordan is really quite engaging. You'll need a fast broadband connection though. Callie writes "You probably already saw the 3D kitchens site [1] from Ikea last year. Now they have one for closets [2]. This one is better than a game to play. There are five different closet styles and each one has 3 objects to put away. OK Gizmo, I know I really should be doing something a little more constructive :>)" Then again Callie maybe not. In fact I suggest you try playing a real game. May I suggest this charming little Flash game called Kitty Cannon [3]?
[1] http://www.ikea.com/ms/sv_SE/kampanj/fy06_dromkok/dromkok.html
[2] http://www.kominigarderoben.se/
[3] http://www.addictinggames.com/kittencannon.html

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

4.6 When Microsoft Buys Firefox

Nice spoof site, it's very funny but there is some strong language so be warned. I love the logo tag: "Where am I today?" Thanks Leib.
http://www.msfirefox.com/

4.7 21st Century Thesaurus

"The Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus with an innovative display that encourages exploration and learning." It does too. Thanks to Tamsin Carvan for this one.
http://www.visualthesaurus.com

4.8 The Cheapest Way to Buy Books

Next time you are looking for a book, feed the title into the search engine at Fetchbook [1]. It will scan 126 book stores and over 60,000 private sellers to find the lowest price for new and second hand copies. Thanks to Mikel for this letting me know about this site.
http://www.fetchbook.info/

5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 The Three Most Under-utilized Keyboard Shortcuts

I was standing behind my wife the other day quietly watching her use her computer to write an email. The more I watched the clearer it became just how much extra work she was creating for herself by not using Windows keyboard shortcuts.

Most average users know a few keyboard shortcuts such as ^C for Copy, ^X for Cut, and ^V for Paste but here are three additional shortcuts that many folks under-utilize. If you spend a few moments learning them you'll find them incredibly useful (Note: When I write ^C it means to press down the Ctrl key and while holding it down, press the C key. You then release both together)

The first is ^A. This selects (highlights) everything in the current window or field. So for example you want to copy this entire newsletter into a Word document, hit ^A to select everything then ^C to copy it to the clipboard. Open your Word document and then type ^V to insert it. It's much quicker than using a mouse to do the same thing. Try ^A now, it should select the whole newsletter. Click anywhere to remove the highlighting.

^A is also really useful when you want to delete the contents of a form field or dialog box. Just hit ^A then Delete. I use it a lot to clear the address box in my browser.

The second handy shortcut is ^Home. This takes you to the top of a document or web page. Similarly ^End takes you to the bottom. It's much faster than scrolling. Try it now.

The third shortcut is probably the most useful of all. It involves using the Shift key when selecting long lists or text passages.

Let's say you want to select a section of this newsletter covering several paragraphs. The way most users would do this would be to left mouse click at the start, hold the mouse button down and then move the mouse curser to the end of the text to be selected.

That's fine but if the text covers more than one screen it can get tricky. Here's a much better way.

First, left click at the start of the text and release the mouse button. Then scroll down to the end of the text and left click again while holding down Shift key. All the text in between will be selected.

Try it now on this newsletter. Neat eh?

The same technique works well when selecting items on a list.

Incidentally, if you want to select or deselect individual items that aren't consecutive, you can do that by using the Ctrl key when left clicking. But hey, that's a fourth shortcut and I said I was only going to give you three :>) If you really want more, there's a complete list here:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/126449

6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 A Tray Clock Replacement with a Difference

Sounds boring doesn't it? But you are wrong; this is one hot little utility.

TClock Lite [1] is a vastly improved replacement for the standard Windows tray clock. It provides all the benefits of the original clock as well as many enhancements and a number of useful additional features. Furthermore it achieves this with a tiny footprint and doesn't even require installation. Here's what it offers:

* complete control over the format of the tray clock including the ability to customize the color, font, size, position on the taskbar and to choose from a wide array of display formats including the display of the current date.

* multiple customizable timers with audio and/or visual notification.

* multiple alarms that can be set for specific durations or time and date.

* time synchronization based on an NTP server of your choice

* direct access to the task manager and taskbar properties.

* the ability to customize your Start button and Start Menu.

* customizable actions when the mouse is clicked on the clock including the ability to run a program, minimize all Windows, show the desktop, shut down Windows and more.

Given the tiny size of the program, the power of this program is most impressive. Less impressive is the help file which is brief and not particularly helpful. However the program is so well laid-out and simple to use that it's not really an issue.

Note that you might get a warning from your security software that TClock is potential spyware. It's not. It's just picking up the fact that it modifies explorer.exe to display the clock.

I've used TClock now for over a month and it has proven to be trouble-free, convenient, informative and useful. It has so many positives and so few negatives that I can recommend it with confidence. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 373KB (including source code)

NOTE FROM GIZMO: Many thanks to "oers k" for this review and to subscriber Travis Carden for the original TClock Lite suggestion. Me, I use a commercial utility called 12Ghosts Showtime. It's a good product but TClock does much the same thing for free. I bought 12Ghosts a year ago as it was the only tray clock that I could find that could show time and date in the same space that the Windows tray clock takes to show the time alone. However Travis showed me a way of doing this with TClock Lite. Here is his TClock format code. Try it, it's great. "ddd dd\nhh:nn tt" or alternatively "hh:nn tt \nmm/dd/yy". If you want to see how these settings look I've put them on a page on my website [2]

[1] http://homepage1.nifty.com/kazubon/tclocklight/index.html
[2] http://www.techsupportalert.com/tclock.htm

** Bonus Freebie for Premium Edition subscribers **

6.2 Free Utility Logs Installation Changes

Thanks to subscriber Lee Marks who wrote to tell me about InstallWatch, a free program that monitors the registry and file changes made when you install software and hardware. I got quite excited about this as utilities like this are usually commercial products.

On investigation I discovered that InstallWatch was itself shareware but a while back development ceased and the product was now offered "as-is" for free. It looks like this happened some years ago as the web site shows little sign of any update since 2000.

Fearing the worst I tried it on a Windows XP SP2 system and was delighted to find it worked like a charm. InstallWatch works by taking snapshots of your system at two different points of time and then doing a comparison to identify changes. This can be useful when trying to work out the behavior of certain programs such as suspected malware or to simply log all the changes made during a program install so these can be fully reversed later. In this role InstallWatch works well.

I tried installing a couple of programs and managed to satisfy myself that InstallWatch was accurately capturing all the changes made. The on-screen reporting is well laid out and there are a number of options to export the changes file.

Unlike some other similar programs such as Total Uninstall, it's not possible to reverse the changes from within InstallWatch though there is an option to export the registry changes as a .reg file and this probably could be used manually to reverse registry changes.

Overall, InstallWatch pretty well worked as advertised. No, there's not a lot of documentation and no, it didn't always automatically detect installs but that aside, it's a very useful free utility to add to your tech toolkit.

I noticed that the site has another free utility called InstallRite that migrates applications from one PC to another. I didn't test this but if someone has used this, then drop me an email to let me know what you think. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 3.7MB
http://www.epsilonsquared.com/

7.0 MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

The best way to manage your Premium SE Edition subscription is from the Supporters' Area of the Support Alert website. There you'll also find all individual back issues, a downloadable back issue archive, an extensive FAQ plus a growing list of resources exclusively available to Supporters.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/supporters/private.htm

The Supporters' Area is protected. To log-in, use the security information sent to you when you first subscribed or as notified subsequently.

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, send me an email at supporters@techsupportalert.com. Remember to state the email address at which you are currently subscribed.

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Enter your email address. No password is needed. You can then cancel your free subscription.

Note that the free and paid editions are totally different publications so you can unsubscribe to the free edition without any chance of impacting your paid subscription.

The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

The Extended List of the Latest Freebies
http://www.techsupportalert.com/more/extended.htm

For lots more free IT newsletters see
http://www.freetechmail.org/infobase.asp?TPubId=79

Thanks to subscriber A. Belile for proofreading this issue.

You can contact this newsletter by snail mail at:
Support Alert
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Support Alert is a registered online serial publication ISSN 1448-7020. Content of this newsletter is (c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com, 2006

See you next issue

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com