Gizmo Richards' Support Alert Newsletter

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

 Free Edition
Issue
137, 14th September, 2006

If you prefer, you can read this issue online at http://techsupportalert.com/issues/al_current.htm

IN THIS FREE ISSUE:
0. EDITORIAL: Security Product Review, Part 3 - sandboxes

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES
1.1 Ultimate List of Free Windows Software from Microsoft
1.2 Windows XP SP2 is Now a Must
1.3 Useful Windows Run Command Cheat Sheet
1.4 Outstanding Security Testing Site
1.5 Free Wake up Calls
1.6 Overcoming Windows Verification Woes
1.7 One Dictionary to Rule Them All (SE Edition)
1.8 Select the Right Colors for Your Web Site (SE Edition)
1.9 Outlook Passwords Explained (SE Edition)
1.10 The Best Value Gaming PCs (SE Edition)
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 The Best Free Project Manager
2.2 Best Free Screen Capture Utility
2.3 Free Text to Speech Utility
2.4 Firefox Extension Provides Enhanced Search
2.5 Top Free Process Viewer Enhanced
2.6 Free Personal Information Manager (SE Edition)
2.7 The Best Free Software Cataloging Utility (SE Edition)
2.8 Excellent Free Font Manager (SE Edition)
2.9 New Free Firewall Impresses (SE Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Computer Users Rebel Against Security Software
3.3 PCs Compromised by Unpatched Word 2000 Flaw
3.4 New Rootkit Detector
3.5 SpySweeper's New Version Bugs Fixed
3.6 Premium Version of Open Office 2 Released
3.7 German Police Seize Tor Servers
3.8 New Spam Onslaught Challenges Spam Filters
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 Really Cheap Software
4.2 Free Library Offers Process Information
4.3 How to Make Sure a Game Will Work on Your PC
4.4 Create Your Own Personal 3D Avatar
4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.6 Lots of Commercial Software for Free (SE Edition)
4.7 How to Make Your Windows Desktop Look Like a Mac (SE)
4.8 A New Art Form That Will Surprise You (SE Edition)
4.9 How to Use Wi-Fi Hot Spots Securely (SE Edition)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 How to Hide a Windows Folder
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 Free Network Inventory Management Tool
6.2 The Best Virtual PC for Free (SE Edition)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0.0 EDITORIAL

This month I'd like to show you my test results for sandbox programs. Of the eight programs I tested, four provided excellent protection against malware while the other four flopped badly. Only one program of the eight passed all the tests with flying colors.

Sandbox programs are security products that allow you to run programs in a kind of virtual PC or sandbox created on your real PC.

The aim is clear: to isolate malicious programs from infecting your real PC by confining them to the sandbox.

The most common application for sandboxing is web browsing. By running your browser in a sandboxed environment your real PC cannot get infected by malicious sites and infected downloads.

Well that's the promise; as we shall see, only half the sandbox programs tested delivered on this promise.

I managed to locate eight sandbox programs. Actually I found quite a few more that used sandbox techniques but these really belonged to other product classes such as HIPS programs or system lockdown products. I also excluded VMWare, Virtual PC and Linux based solutions as they have been well covered in previous issues of this newsletter.

To evaluate the eight sandboxes I used a series of seven different tests based on my own standard tests with additional tests from http://kareldjag.over-blog.com/.

The first was the most important: could the sandbox protect the "real PC" from infection when browsing to a hostile "drive-by download" web site?

Four products passed this test with flying colors. They were:

SandBoxie
GreenBorder
BufferZone
ShadowSurfer

The four products that flunked the "drive-by download" test were:

Altiris SVS
GeSWall
VELite
Virtual Sandbox

As these last four products failed the most important test, I didn't evaluate them further.

The next test was to try to terminate the sandbox using a program running within the sandbox. A sandbox really needs to pass this test otherwise its protection may be rendered useless by aggressive malware running in the sandbox.

All four programs did well and resisted most of the different termination methods I tried. SandBoxie failed one test which involved rebuilding the Service Descriptor Table (SDT) and then termination with Diamond Computer System's Advanced Program Termination utility. This is an obscure attack and I've communicated with the developer of SandBoxie so that he can cover this small hole in its otherwise excellent defenses. A fix is on the way.

In fact, the four top products passed most of my tests - an impressive performance. However, only one managed to pass all seven.

That product was GreenBorder and based on that performance I'd have to rate it at the top of the pack. It was also one of the best implemented products.

It was also the most expensive. Now that really surprises you doesn't it? :>)

Sandboxie is the cheapest product of the four; it's free. More accurately it's donationware. However it provides great protection and hopefully the developer will soon fix its one small weakness.

In truth, all four products are excellent and get my hearty endorsement. They will provide robust protection for your PC against the most hostile malware.

Do you really need one of these products? It depends on your risk level.

If you are a low risk user who only rarely installs programs, doesn't use P2P networks and only browses to well known web sites then you don't need a sandboxing program. You can instead rely on your normal anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software to protect you.

However if you are a higher risk user then a sandbox program will provide you with the level of protection you really need.

There is another caveat. I know from subscriber letters that these sandbox programs can cause problems on some PCs.

In fact, if you have one of these troublesome PCs, none of these products may work. These cases however should be in the minority; most folks won't have any problem at all. Certainly I haven't. But remember to backup before installing any of these programs

In this brief editorial I've only covered the main findings of my tests. For a full analysis and more detailed product guidance check out the full report on the Support Alert web site.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/security_virtualization.htm

See you next month.

Gizmo
Ian "Gizmo" Richards
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 is not produced by a giant publishing empire, it's the work of one man, working alone, namely me.

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 products.

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 Ultimate List of Free Windows Software from Microsoft

Over 150 freebies including many I'd never heard of. Many thanks to Art Flores for the link.
http://bhandler.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!70F64BC910C9F7F3!1231.entry

1.2 Windows XP SP2 is Now a Must

Windows XP service pack 2 has been released for a long time yet many users have never installed it. In some cases this is simple ignorance but quite often it's because of the problems it causes when installed. The case for installing SP2 is overwhelming on security grounds alone. Now you have another reason: Microsoft support for Windows XP SP1 ends on October 11. If you have had problems with installing XP2 then sort them out by consulting this site [1] or Microsoft's special SP2 support site [2].
[1] http://winhlp.com/WxSP2.htm
[2] http://support.microsoft.com/?pr=windowsxpsp2

1.3 Useful Windows Run Command Cheat Sheet

Most Windows functions that can be carried out through the normal GUI interface can also be accessed via the command line interface. In fact, some functions can ONLY be accessed through the command line. This site lists 99 command line programs covering both categories.
http://www.fixmyxp.com/content/view/20/42/

1.4 Outstanding Security Testing Site

I've long been a critic of the way most security tests are conducted. If you want to see how you should test security products then check out this site [1]. Quite frankly, no one does it better. Their reviews of HIPS products is particular, is definitive.
[1] http://kareldjag.over-blog.com/

1.5 Free Wake up Calls

Subscriber Adeniji Akintobi writes, "Gizmo, I wanted to bring a website to your attention. It's similar to the "Oh Don't Forget" website you recommended in a previous issue except you get phone calls instead of text messages. You can order wake up calls or reminder calls for free." Thanks for that Adeniji, nice site. I note, though, the service is only for the continental USA.
http://www.telepixie.com

1.6 Overcoming Windows Verification Woes

Shy subscriber "Joe" writes, "Gizmo, Why bother with Windows authentication hassles when you can get all the Windows updates from this site [1]?" Quite so Joe and they even offer a browser plug-in to automate the process. Subscriber Al O'Lamoree has another solution: install the automatic patching program NetChk Protect [2] that's currently available to personal users free for 12 months. The later solution has the advantage that it will update all the software on your PC not just Microsoft. However you do need to be tech-savvy to use it.
[1] http://windowsupdate.62nds.com/
[2] http://www.shavlik.com/netchk-protect.aspx

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

1.7 One Web Dictionary to Rule Them All

1.8 Select the Right Colors for Your Web Site

1.9 Outlook Passwords Explained

1.10 The Best Value Gaming PCs

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

------------ advertisement --------------

Now you'll know everything that is happening on your network

NEW CrossTec EMS (Enterprise Management System) provides affordable, easy to use, desktop management tools including straightforward software distribution; Internet and user application metering, monitoring & reporting; and powerful hardware and software inventory and asset management.

Inventory reports by user, department, group or company, Windows & Linux, monitor changes and find newly installed HW & SW; locate files by size; See CPU, BIOS, Memory and even available slots; Optional Remote Control & Support. All-in-one solution. Try EMS today and watch it save you time and money.

http://www.crossteccorp.com/tryems/

--------------- end of ad ----------------

2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 The Best Free Project Manager

Open Workbench is a free Open Source project manager that is so feature rich and so powerful that it should at least be considered before any decision is made to purchase a commercial project management package. It's a product that takes time to get your head around. If you have been using Microsoft Project or other task based manager you'll have to re-orient your thinking because Open Workbench is resource-driven not task-driven. "An Open Workbench plan is built up from estimates for the tasks of work. Estimates are tied to the resource assigned to the tasks. Duration is then driven by the number of hours each resource will work per week to cover the total number of hours required for the tasks. Open Workbench is best suited for groups that estimate total work effort based on the estimates for all the tasks associated with a project, and then create a staffing plan and schedule for those estimates." Once you come to terms with this, you will still have to grapple with learning how to use this powerful product. Here is a partial feature list:

  • Define projects and create associated work breakdown structures with activities, phases, tasks and milestones
  • Create dependencies as finish-start, start-start, finish- finish or start-finish
  • Create subprojects and link them to master projects
  • Create and manage inter-project dependencies
  • Manage advanced task properties such as fixed duration, dependency lag, imposed start/end dates and charge codes
  • Schedule tasks manually or automatically using Auto Schedule
  • Automatically schedule tasks forwards or backwards
  • Schedule across linked master and subprojects
  • Schedule to general or individualized calendars
  • Define resources as people, equipment, materials or expense
  • Assign resources to tasks
  • Configure resources on tasks with uniform, fixed, contour, front or back loading
  • Track status, percent complete and estimates to complete
  • View Gantt charts (both detail and roll-up), PERT charts and the critical path
  • Conduct earned value analysis
  • Define, compare and reset project baseline setting
  • Can read Microsoft Project files

Open Workbench is the real thing, not some amateurish, half baked effort. Like Microsoft Project, it is best suited to large scale projects that can justify the considerable time it takes to learn the product. Those with smaller projects may want to consider some of the simpler (and less powerful) alternatives such as GanttPV [2] or ToDoList [3]. Freeware (registration required), Windows 2000 and later, 9.03MB.

[1] http://www.openworkbench.org/index.php
[2] http://www.pureviolet.net/ganttpv/index.html
[3] http://www.codeproject.com/tools/todolist2.asp

2.2 Best Free Screen Capture Utility

My top suggestions in this category have long been PrintScreen [1] and ScreenHunter Lite [2]. The former has the advantage of simplicity while the later has more features. These are both quality freebies that will meet the needs of most people so I haven't really been looking for alternatives. However, after some glowing recommendations from subscribers about FastStone's Screen Capture [3] I decided to check this program out. In a word, it's outstanding. It's small, doesn't require installation and has more features than you could ever want including the ability to capture scrolling screen shots across more than one screen page. It can also save in BMP, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, GIF, TIFF and TGA formats. In many ways it's like the full commercial version of ScreenHunter except that it's free for personal use. This one goes straight into my "46 Best-ever Freeware" list. While at the site check out FastStone's Image Viewer [4]. I think it's the best freebie in its class. Its speed is simply sensational; reminiscent of the old ACDSee before it suffered feature bloat.
[1] http://www.gadwin.com/printscreen/?prnscr
[2] http://www.wisdom-soft.com/products/screenhunter.htm
[3] http://www.faststone.org/FSCaptureDetail.htm Free for personal use, all Windows versions, 1.2MB
[4] http://www.faststone.org/FSViewerDetail.htm Free for personal use, all Windows versions, 2.9MB

2.3 Free Text to Speech Utility

Recently subscriber Jim Powell wrote in to tell me about Dimio's Tool's [1] web site offering a collection of free utilities. When I checked it out I found they were offering a free remote shutdown program, a task manager, folder sync utility and more. But what really caught my eye was DSpeech, a free text to speech and voice recognition program. Unlike other similar utilities DSpeech is small (600KB) and doesn't need to be installed. This makes it ideal for folks who only have an occasional need for text to speech conversion. To use the program you cut and past text into the conversion window and press the "Speak" button. Speech quality is totally dependant on the voices you use. The best voices are commercial products but the site lists some free voices that give quite acceptable quality. Freeware, Windows NT and later, 600KB.
http://dimio.altervista.org/eng/

2.4 Firefox Extension Provides Enhanced Search

Now, how can you go past an extension called "Advanced Dork?" Well, I couldn't and as a result discovered an excellent free tool that performs various advanced Google searches when you right click on any highlighted word or phrase on a web page. The search options include maps, definitions, links, Froogle and a dozen or so more. You can even select which options are displayed in the right click context menu. I use it a lot for finding the meaning of new technical terms as well as locating maps of places unfamiliar to me.
https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/2144/

2.5 Top Free Process Viewer Enhanced

I have several process viewers scattered across my various PCs but the one I find myself using most often is "What's Running" [1]. It's not the most powerful; SysInternal's excellent Process Explorer [2] takes that title. It's not the most informative; WinTasks [3] wins there. It's also slow to load. So why do I use it? Easy: it gives me the information I want in the way I want it. That's because "What's Running" is more than a process viewer, it's an excellent startup manager and port enumerator as well. That means I can just flick between the various tabs to get the full lowdown on what's running on my PC without leaving the product. The latest version 2.2 adds even more functionality to an already powerful product and also offers usability enhancements. The new feature I liked most was the ability to jump from an autostart entry to the running processes created by that entry. Try it, you may like it. Free for personal use, Windows 2000 and later, 1.1MB
[1] http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/ProcessExplorer.html
[2] http://www.liutilities.com/products/wintaskspro/
[3] http://www.whatsrunning.net/whatsrunning/main.aspx

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

2.6 Free Personal Information Manager

2.7 The Best Free Software Cataloging Utility

2.8 Excellent Free Font Manager

2.9 New Free Firewall Impresses

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 on September 12 yielded only three patches, one of the smallest for months. Of the three patches only one, a vulnerability in Microsoft Publisher [1], was rated as "Critical."

Also included was a re-release of a massive Internet Explorer cumulative update. This re-release patches a vulnerability missed last time around and ends a public row between Microsoft and the security company eEye who first published details of the overlooked flaw.

Full details of the updates can be found here [2]. All the updates are distributed automatically by the Microsoft Update Service. It is extremely important that users who do not have automatic updates enabled visit the Update Service [3] now.
[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS06-054.mspx
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms06-sep.mspx
[3] http://update.microsoft.com (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 Computer Users Rebel against Security Software

Sick and tired of all this computer security stuff that's being thrust down your neck? Then you'll find this delightful piece submitted by subscriber "Briard" highly satisfying. I don't agree with all Briard says but I do understand how he feels.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/security-blues.htm

3.3 PCs Compromised by Unpatched Word 2000 Flaw

Microsoft on September 5 finally confirmed a problem that had been previously identified by security companies that allowed users PCs to be compromised simply by opening a specially crafted document in Word 2000. All Word 2000 users should avoid opening any Word document from untrusted sources until a patch is released.
http://www.frsirt.com/english/advisories/2006/3448

3.4 New Rootkit Detector

How many free rootkit detectors do we really need? Well, apparently Sophos thinks at least one more. I had a quick look and its new offering [1] and found it simple to use and fast to scan and it also offers to clean any rootkits detected. But does it actually detect rootkits? I did a quick test against some rootkits that I had on hand and it found Hacker Defender but missed FuTo, a special version of Vanquish and Rootkit11. Well, at least it scanned fast. ;>) At this stage, I suggest most average users would be best off with F-Secures's BlackLight scanner [2] while advanced users should use DarkSpy [3] and/or the GMER scanner [4].
[1] http://www.sophos.com/products/free-tools/sophos-anti-rootkit.html
[2] http://www.f-secure.com/blacklight/
[3] http://www.softpedia.com/get/Antivirus/DarkSpy-Anti-Rootkit.shtml
[4] http://www.gmer.net/

3.5 SpySweeper's New Version Bugs Fixed

Last issue I complained about a bug in the new version 5 of WebRoot's excellent SpySweeper program that was eating up a lot of processing power on my PC. The good news is that the latest release appears to have fixed the problem. The bad news is the "fix" appears to consist of disabling the keylogger scanner that was one of the new features of version 5. Well, at least it works now.
http://www.webroot.com

3.6 Premium Version of Open Office 2 Released

This "premium version" is really the same as Open Office V2 with the addition of:
* Clip Art (currently more than 2,800 objects)
* Templates (number varies by language)
* Samples (number varies by language)
* Documentation (if available)
* Fonts (more than 90 fonts)
It all adds up to a massive download of around 200MB.
http://sourceforge.net/forum/forum.php?forum_id=605082

3.7 German Police Seize Tor Servers

Tor is a free anonymizing service that's widely used by privacy- conscious surfers. On 7 September the security of their privacy took a severe nose-dive when German police seized a number of Tor servers in that country as part a campaign to crack down on "men who have an strange interest in young children." Note my spam filter inspired sensitivity there. ;>) Folks, this incident is a just another example of what I have long told you: there is no such thing as absolute privacy on the internet. That doesn't mean you have no privacy. Quite the opposite; you can achieve a high degree of privacy. But absolute privacy, no way.
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/09/10/report_german_police.html

3.8 New Spam Onslaught Challenges Spam Filters

Noticing more spam arriving in your mail? Then join the crowd. There is currently a spate of spam that uses large slabs of random text to poison Bayesian Spam filters [1]. There's not much you can do about it except to add another layer of filtering that uses a different technique such as the network filter used in Cloudmark Safety Bar [2].
[1] http://www.spam-burger.com/How-Spammers-Fool-Bayesian-Filters-And-How-To-Stop-Them.html
[2] http://techsupportalert.com/reviews/review-cloudmark.htm


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

The Best Windows Backup Software
We are in the process of updating all the backup reviews at our site but I can tell you right now that the top product has blitzed the field for a second year in row. In fact, it's improved so much that it's now a one horse race for our "editor's choice." The updated review of the top product is now online. If you have been looking for a backup program, this is the one.
http://www.backup-software-reviews.com/

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. It's also one of the few anti-spyware programs that can reliably detect rootkits. Try the free evaluation copy of the new Version 5.0 and see for yourself.
http://www.webroot.com/consumer/products/spysweeper/index.html?acode=af1&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 Drive Imaging Program
In this race there are really only two runners worth considering. In this review we do an in-depth comparison of the top contenders but in the end, one product is the clear winner.
http://techsupportalert.com/drive-imaging-reviews.htm

The Best Free Kids Craft Projects
Keep your children engaged and amused with healthy, creative arts and craft activities that won't cost you a cent. Free weekly newsletter packed with easy kids craft projects.
http://kidscraftweekly.com/

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

4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 Really Cheap Software

Regular contributor Leib Moscovitz writes, "Gizmo, in case you didn't see this, they have some very good deals, offered for one day only, and for a limited quantity of each software package. You can also suggest programs for them to feature at a discount.
http://www.bitsdujour.com/

4.2 Free Library Offers Process Information

OK, your firewall pops up a message: "alg.exe is trying to connect to the internet (A)llow (D)eny." You have no idea what to do because you don't know what alg.exe is. Fear not, just go to this free site and type in alg.exe and it will tell you exactly what the program does along with some advice whether it's a friend or foe.
http://www.processlibrary.com/

4.3 How to Make Sure a Game Will Work on Your PC

Subscriber Shafile Rashid writes, "Gizmo, it's common for users to enthusiastically buy a PC game only to find that it won't run on their PCs. At this site [1] you can choose a game then the site will download a small tool on your PC to check your hardware and settings. It will then give you a report whether your PC is capable of running the game. If not, it will usually state the reasons." Nice suggestion, Shafile. I'm not a gamer but I thought I'd check out the service just to ensure that it was free of spyware. I tried it with two browsers: IE and Firefox. With IE, the site uses ActiveX to do the hardware analysis while with Firefox it downloads a small Java applet. I tried both and my security programs gave no warning so it looks fine. However, the ActiveX and Java results were slightly different with the latter more accurate. Yet another reason to use Firefox. ;>)
[1] http://www.systemrequirementslab.com/referrer/srtest

4.4 Create Your Own Personal 3D Avatar

Why use a plain vanilla photo or clipart item to identify yourself when you can create your own unique 3D identity at Meez.com? You can use your personal avatar anywhere including MySpace, Xanga, Skype, ICS services or Blogger. Better still, create multiple identities to suit your mood and environment.
http://www.meez.com

4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department

This Flash animation [1] provides a possible explanation for why your desktop icons seem to move around without you ever touching them. Thanks to Mikel for this one. Feeling nostalgia for the simpler world of old DOS computer games? If so you'll love this suggestion from regular contributor Andreas Büsing. "WinLems [2] is a complete remake of original DOS classic in Windows. Includes a full-featured level editor that gives you complete control over every aspect of making levels. Everything is emulated from the original except for music, which will be added in next release."
[1] http://www.xs4all.nl/~jvdkuyp/flash/see.htm
[2] http://www.wildfiredesign.net/winlems/index.htm

** Additional Items in the Premium SE Edition **

4.6 Lots of Commercial Software for Free

4.7 How to Make Your Windows Desktop Look Like a Mac

4.8 A New Art Form That Will Surprise You

4.9 How to Use Wi-Fi Hot Spots Securely


5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Hide a Windows Folder

Folder hiding is a simple way of keeping prying eyes away from your private documents.

From a human point of view it's a good solution; what you can't see, you don't know you want.

Encrypting a folder can have the opposite effect. The folder is visible and if access is attempted, the need to enter a password positively shouts the message that someone is trying to hide something.

This probably explains why there are so many commercial utilities that claim they can securely hide folders.

I use the word "claim" deliberately. It's actually quite difficult to securely hide a folder in Windows without risking problems in the operating system itself.

And there can be all sorts of practical problems. For example, what happens to the hidden folder when you delete a visible folder above it in the folder tree? Will the hidden folder be backed up? Will it be scanned by your AV program? Can the files in the folder be recovered in an emergency such as a system crash?

These are not theoretical problems; they are real and need to be seriously considered.

I've used a number of commercial folder hiding programs over the years and have ended up un-installing them all. They were simply not worth the trouble.

Instead of using complicated and expensive security utilities, I suggest you stealth your folders using a far simpler method using the Windows "hidden" attribute. And once you have hidden your folders you can then protect them using free open source encryption programs.

The Windows hidden attribute works similarly to the more familiar "read only" attribute. It's a property of every file and folder that can be turned on or off. Let's try it.

Create a folder in My Documents and call it "test." Now copy a couple of unimportant files to the folder.

To turn on the hidden attribute right click on the folder icon, select Properties, then the General Tab and check the Hidden box.

The folder should disappear from My Documents. If it doesn't then you have Windows Explorer configured to display hidden files.

To change this, select Tools / Folder options / View then check the "Do not show hidden files and folders" box. Now the test folder should disappear. To make it re-appear select the "Show hidden files and folders" option.

So now you have a way of hiding a folder and revealing it again using your folder settings. Now I'll show you a simple trick that allows you access your hidden folder without constantly changing the folder settings. However, before I can demonstrate this we have to make the folder hidden but the files within it not-hidden.

Go to My Documents and make sure your folder "test" is visible. Open "test" and select all the files by using Control A. Now right click anywhere on the selected files and select Properties / General and uncheck the Hidden attribute. Now your folder is hidden but the files are not.

Go back to My Documents and hide the folder by changing the folder settings. Your test folder should disappear from My Documents.

Now here's the trick. Windows allows you to navigate to a hidden folder. So while in the My Documents folder, type into the address bar "/test" immediately after "My Documents" with no spaces between and hit enter.

Voila you are now in your secret "test" folder and all your documents are visible!

Of course locating your private folder in My Documents is not a great idea as it will be immediately revealed should another user enable the display of hidden files. Better to stash your folder in some obscure location well away from prying eyes but easy to navigate to. Additionally, name the folder to be as uninteresting as possible.

Hiding your folder like this is fine if you only want to keep information from prying eyes but if you really want to properly protect your hidden folder you should encrypt it.

Luckily that's easy; simply use the free open source program AxCrypt:
http://axcrypt.axantum.com/

Using AxCrypt is dead simple so I won't explain how. AxCrypt is also near-unbreakable so make sure you don't forget your password. If you do, your data is lost forever.

Using this technique you can hide and protect your folders without spending a cent and, unlike commercial folder hiding utilities, this technique is not going to potentially create a whole set of other problems.

6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 Free Network Inventory Management Tool

This is really nice. Spiceworks is a browser based inventory program that allows LAN managers to quickly discover and document the hardware, software and patch status of their network PCs.

That rather bland description seriously under-sells the usefulness of this product. It's got a terrific filter system that allows you to target your inventory request plus a highly customizable reporting system. On top of that it has a great interface, is easy to use, can handle Linux and Mac OS X workstations and uses standard network protocols.

In short, it's just the tool that managers of small to medium size networks have been looking for. At the moment it's a free beta so go grab it while you can. Note: The program requires XP Pro with 512MB RAM on the administrator's PC. Free beta, 7MB.
http://www.spiceworks.com/

** Bonus Freebie in the Premium SE Edition **

6.2 The Best Virtual PC for Free

There is little doubt in my mind that the best virtualization product on the market is VMWare Workstation. Indeed, it's what I use for all my security testing and in two years of intensive use with some the most hostile malware products around its protection has never failed. However, at $189 VMWare Workstation is out of reach of most home users.

Thanks to a suggestion from subscriber Dennis Federwitz I'm able to show you a way of getting most of the advantages of VMWare Workstation without spending a cent.

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

GET THE PREMIUM "SE" EDITION NOW

Stop missing out on all this extra information! Subscribe now to the premium "SE" Edition of this newsletter and immediately receive the current issue containing nearly double the information contained in this free edition. Get twice as many great web sites, get twice as many top utilities and great freebies. 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.

Use this link to subscribe online now:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm

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

Use the link below to subscribe now:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm

7.0 MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

Support Alert is a free newsletter. If you liked this issue why not email it to a friend. Anyone can subscribe by signing up online at
http://www.techsupportalert.com/al_subscribe.htm

Back Issues
A searchable library of back issues is available at:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/issues/back_issues.htm

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter just go to
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?enter=support.alerth Enter
your email address. No password is needed. You can then cancel on-line. 
Premium issue subscribers should note that they can delete their free edition subscription  without affecting their Premium subscription as the two lists are totally separate.

To change your delivery email address go to
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?enter=support.alerth Enter
your old email address. No password is needed. You can then change your subscription email address directly.

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.TechNewsletters.com/infobase.asp?TPubId=79

Thanks to subscriber Neal Dwire for proofreading this issue.

You can contact this newsletter by snail mail at:
Support Alert
PO Box 243
Comstock Park, MI 49321-0243 USA

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