Gizmo Richards Support Alert Newsletter - Premium SE Edition "Gizmo's top picks of the best
Tech resources and utilities"
Premium SE Edition,  Issue 141
25th January, 2007

If you prefer you can read this issue online from the Supporters' Area here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/supporters/private.htm

0. EDITORIAL: The Best Strategy for Dealing with Malware

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES
1.1 Free Tech Support Sites
1.2 Firefox V2.0 Tweaks
1.3 Free PIMS Galore
1.4 Free Adobe Brushes
1.5 The Best Wiki for You
1.6 Vista May be Bad Move for Media Users
1.7 Huge Free Software List (Premium Edition)
1.8 Good Labeling Resource (Premium Edition)
1.9 Compile a C Program Online (Premium Edition)
1.10 Free Windows Vista on a USB Stick (Premium Edition)
1.11 Important Changes to Premium Edition ** PLEASE READ
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 New Virtualization Product Offers Convenient & Safe Surfing
2.2 HIPS Program Gets Editor's Choice
2.3 Free Utility Protects Data on Stolen Laptops
2.4 Free Browser Add-on Protects Login Credentials
2.5 Microsoft Patch Fixes Slow Running IE7
2.6 Best Free Video Converter (Premium Edition)
2.7 Free Utility Keeps Track of Project Time (Premium)
2.8 Best Free Screen Session Recorder (Premium Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Firefox Updated to V2.0.0.1
3.3 Flaws in Adobe PDF Reader and Acrobat Fixed
3.4 Free Scanner Identifies USB Devices Attached to Network
3.5 Free Online Malware Scan
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 More Ways to Buy Books Online Cheaply
4.2 Two Additional "Official" Windows XP Themes
4.3 How to Charge AA Batteries from a USB Port
4.4 Watch TV, Webcams or Listen to Radio on Your PC
4.5 Your 64 Bit Software Questions Answered
4.6 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.7 How to get Commercial Software for Free (Premium Edition)
4.8 Have Web Pages Read to You (Premium Edition)
4.9 More Vista Features for XP Users (Premium Edition)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 How to Use Mouse Shortcuts
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 The Fastest BitTorrent Client Yet
6.2 The Best Free Spam Filter (Premium Edition)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0.0 EDITORIAL

After spending the last seven months testing security products I've learned an important lesson.

Don't get infected by malware.

In other words, put maximum effort into preventing infection rather than detecting and removing infection.

This statement may seem bland and unremarkable but there's more to it than you think.

To start with I've come to realize that it's almost impossible to defend yourself against the latest generation of malware products once they get the opportunity to run on your PC. These things are just too clever and the holes in the Windows operating system too wide for you to be able to effectively defend yourself.

Additionally, it's become clear to me that it IS possible to prevent most infections. Not with 100% effectiveness of course, but close to it.

So how do you prevent infection?

The basics you know:

First, ensure you keep Windows and MS Office completely up-to-date by applying the latest fixes from the Microsoft Update Service.

Second, make sure your other software products are also fully updated, particularly popular products like Firefox, Opera, the Adobe Reader, Sun Java, Flash plug-ins and media players.

Third, never open email attachments from untrusted sources however tempting and attractive such attachments may seem. Similarly, never click on links in email from unknown correspondents.

Fourth, never install programs unless you are fully confident they are clean. In particular, only download files from trusted sources and never install programs that friends give you on removable media unless you have verified that are clean.

Fifth, install a robust firewall to ensure worms can't secretly enter your PC via the internet. My current favorite is the free Comodo firewall but there are several other excellent choices including Kerio, Jetico, Netveda and ZoneAlarm Pro to name but a few.

These basic measures are surprisingly effective in keeping your PC free from infection. Indeed, I've known users who follow these rules and don't use any additional security products yet have never had a malware infection.

However, sticking to these rules is not easy; it requires a level of discipline most users don't have. Who hasn't been tempted to open a funny PowerPoint email attachment or install a free game?

And it's not only a question of discipline. These days you can get infected simply by surfing to a hostile web site or opening a "loaded" MS Office document. You need more protection that the basic security rules can provide.

After seven months of testing security products I'm now convinced the best way to get that additional protection is to use a sandboxing solution.

I've covered the subject extensively in recent issues and won't repeat it. If you don't know what sandboxing is then check out this article:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/issues/al_current.htm#Section_1.1

Instead of explaining sandboxing I'd like to talk about how it can be used to prevent your PC from getting infected.

To start with, do all your surfing in a sandbox. Using a product like SandBoxie or DefenseWall to surf is easy, convenient and provides near perfect protection from even the most hostile websites.

Additionally, use the sandbox to install any downloaded files. That way you can check them out without risking infection. If you are happy the program is kosher then you can move it outside the sandbox and install it on your real PC.

Finally you can use the sandbox to view any email attachment you want to view but don't fully trust. Just save the attachment from your email client and then run the saved file in the sandbox. That way you can view that joke PowerPoint attachment without threatening your PC.

Not only is sandboxing convenient and practical it also uses very few of your computer resources. Indeed, many users will notice no difference in performance when using a sandbox product.

So, if you follow the basic security rules listed above and use sandboxing as indicated, how safe is your PC? Well, a lot safer than if you don't.

That doesn't mean you don't need anti-virus and anti-spyware products on your PC. Next month I'll show you how these can be best employed in concert with the protection measures I've outlined in this editorial.

One thing for sure though: For me the days of running half a dozen AV, anti-spyware and anti-trojan products are over. I'm now following my grandmother's advice:

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

See you next month.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com

Short List of Recommended Sandboxing Products:

Note that I do not sell or carry advertising for any of these products.

1.0 TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 Free Tech Support Sites

Subscriber Dana Kasper recently wrote to tell me of the Tech Guys support site [1]. I've covered it a couple of times in previous issues but it's worth mentioning again. It's a very active forum site that covers more than 25 different support areas. Anyone can post a question for free providing they register. The number and quality of responses to posts are quite variable but it's definitely worth trying next time you have a tech problem. Also worth trying is Qunu [2]. It connects users (with problems) to volunteer "experts" (with answers) using any Jabber based Instant Messaging client. I tried it and it works great but, as ever, the quality of the answers you get will depend on the quality of the "expert" assigned to you. Thanks to subscriber Urcun Bolkan for this one.
[1] http://www.techguys.org/
[2] http://www.qunu.com/

1.2 Firefox V2.0 Tweaks

Lots of nice tips here for customizing FF2. My favorite was the one that showed you how to reduce memory usage.
http://www.lifehacker.com/software/firefox-2/geek-to-live-top-firefox-2-config-tweaks-209941.php

1.3 Free PIMS Galore

This site is dedicated to free PIMS and last time I checked there were 229 listed! Unfortunately the site doesn't offer much guidance but if you are looking for a new PIM it's a good starting point. Thanks to Steve Halvorsen for the link.
http://www.freepims.com/id224.html

1.4 Free Adobe Brushes

Tony Bennett writes, "Gizmo, this site's collection of free Adobe brushes [1] is both wonderful and different." Tony also sent a link to another site [2] that offers a brush viewer that allows you to check out brushes separately from Photoshop.
[1] http://www.dozibaer.com/brushes/dozi%27s-brushes-01.htm
[2] http://abrviewer.sourceforge.net/

1.5 The Best Wiki for You

"Find the Wikis that match your personal needs: Just answer a few questions in the Wiki Choice Wizard or create a customized Search. Compare the Wikis of your choice in a comfortable side-by-side table. Use the forum to talk to other Wiki users, ask questions and discuss everything Wiki." Thanks to regular contributor Andreas Büsing for this item.
http://www.wikimatrix.org/

1.6 Vista May be Bad Move for Media Users

The Content Protection specification in Vista is quite frightening. I suggest all media users read this article before committing to upgrade to Vista. It's a long read but well worth the effort. Thanks to Lex Davidson for the link.
http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.txt

** Additional Items in this Premium Edition **

1.7 Huge Free Software List

Subscriber Richard Horn wrote to tell me about this directory of free software compiled by UNESCO. It's a very good reference list but not quite as complete as one might have hoped from the United Nations.
http://directory.fsf.org/

1.8 Good Labeling Resource

Subscriber Todd Harrell writes, "Gizmo, I ran across this site today. It's ideal for small to mid size network admins because of the ten piece minimum."
http://www.securisysagency.com/serial_number_labels.html

1.9 Compile a C Program Online

Need to quickly compile some simple C source code but don't have a C compiler on hand? No problem, just upload your C source to this website and they will compile it for you.
http://www.acmesystems.it/?id=37

1.10 Free Windows Vista on a USB Stick

Subscriber Travis Carden writes, "Hey, Gizmo today I ran across moka5 LivePC, which appears to use the free VMWare player and provides public images for people to use so they don't have to make their own." Nice find Travis. There are not of lot of LivePC images offered but the one that took my eye was a full Vista Ultimate RC2. You can get a free key from Microsoft that is good until May 2007. Yes, you can install it on a USB flash drive providing you have 2.5GB of space to accommodate the image. It would be really slow running so I suggest that if you want to try Vista you install the image on your hard drive. Note that VMWare itself [2] offers hundreds of free images (appliances) for use with their free player.
[1] http://www.moka5.com
[2] http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/directory/

1.11 Important Changes to Premium Edition

A new subscription management system for premium edition subscribers is currently in beta testing. The new system offers considerable advantages for subscribers including:

  • The ability to have your own user-name and password
  • The ability to automatically have your password re-sent to you
  • The capacity to check your subscription renewal date
  • Renewal of your subscription at any time
  • The ability to have a subscription delivery address that's different from your subscription payment email address
  • Improvements in canceling of renewal notices after re-subscription

I'll be writing to you with full details in the next few weeks. Please keep an eye out for this email as I'll be asking you to login to the system with a new password then change to whatever password you want. I'm letting you know now in case some of you accidentally mistake this for a phishing letter.

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


2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 New Virtualization Product Offers Convenient & Safe Surfing

Virtualization products like VMWare and Virtual PC offer safe surfing but are inconvenient to use as they can take several minutes to start up. MojoPac is new virtualization solution that starts up really quickly. In fact, on my PC I could start MojoPac and have a virtualized copy of Firefox running in about 10 seconds.

MojoPac works by creating a virtual PC environment on an external USB 2 drive. This can be a Flash drive, a hard disk drive or even your iPod.

When installed on the external drive, MojoPac creates what appears to be a clean version of Windows XP running on the external drive. It's only an illusion as it actually utilizes the Windows files on the PC to which the external drive is attached.

MojoPac itself doesn't take up much space however programs installed on the virtual PC reside on the external USB drive. This means that if you intend to install large applications like MS Office you will need enough space on the external drive to accommodate the application and its work area.

MojoPac allows you to move some application data directly to the external PC. For example, I was able to move in a few seconds my whole Firefox profile including all installed extensions. Your Outlook PST file can be moved similarly.

Now for the really clever feature of MojoPac. Once you've installed it and your applications onto an external drive, you can plug the external drive into any Windows XP computer and bring up the same virtual PC complete with all your data and applications.

That means you can take your computing environment with you wherever you go, like a poor man's laptop. Plug your USB drive into a friend's computer, an internet cafe machine, a hotel PC and you are away.

Some folks will find this feature alone sufficiently compelling to fork out $30 for MojoPac. However, to me there's another reason that's just as compelling.

I've been running MojoPac on a fast 7200RPM USB drive attached to my desktop PC. If I leave MojoPac running, I can switch between the MojoPac and my normal desktop environment in seconds. While in the MojoPac environment my real PC is almost fully isolated. That means any infections in the MojoPac PC can be contained and isolated.

This gives me freedom to surf anywhere on the net with near perfect safety yet at the same time not suffer a time penalty in switching from one environment to the other.

Of course you can achieve a similar result by using a sandboxing product and if you don't need the portability provided by MojoPac, sandboxing may indeed be a more secure option.

Using a fast external drive I found MojoPac's performance to be excellent. Sure it was slower than my normal PC environment but not so slow as to be annoying. This may change if you use a low performance drive. Some Flash drives are actually very slow so using one of these could be a real problem.

I guess the ideal solution would be to use an external 7200RPM 2.5 inch laptop drive in an external USB 2 enclosure. This would offer high performance yet be small enough to slip into your shirt pocket.

Whatever drive you use, make sure you follow the instructions on the MojoPac website to optimize USB drive performance; it makes a huge difference.

In short, a terrific product that will meet the needs of many computer users. Many thanks to Keith C. for the suggestion.

http://www.mojopac.com/ Shareware, $29.95, 30 day trial, Windows XP or MCE, 9.25MB

2.2 HIPS Program Gets Editor's Choice

In the last few weeks I've been swamped by subscribers asking me what I thought of a HIPS program called Primary Response. Apparently it has just scored an Editor's Choice rating from PC Magazine and created quite a stir.

SafeConnect is behavior based HIPS designed to be used as a complementary tool to a virus scanner. In fact, there is a version designed to work specifically with Norton Antivirus though I chose to test the generic version that works with all AV products.

Behavior-based detection is nothing new; it's used by a number of HIPS products and is also increasingly common as a secondary line of defense in AV scanners.

The great strength of this technique is that it doesn't rely on malware signatures for detection but uses malware behavior instead. That makes it very useful for protecting against new threats (0-day threats) that haven't been added to AV scanner signature databases.

The weakness of this technique is that by using behavior alone it is often difficult to discriminate between malware and your normal programs. This gives rise to false positives where your real programs may be classified as threats or false negatives and where malware may be classified as legitimate programs.

The developers of SafeConnect tried to minimize these problems by using a "training" period when the product is first installed to allow the program to learn what's normal on your PC. By default this is for seven days but can be set longer.

Another trick they use is to employ a certain amount of signature-based detection. That may sound odd but it is not unusual in so called "behavioral" HIPS. It really cuts down on number of false positives and false negatives.

I tested SafeConnect two ways. First, I ran it on one of my normal work PCs so I could train it and get a feel for usage in a real life situation. Secondly, I ran it through the same series of technical tests that I used to evaluate six other HIPS products in issue #139.

The results of the technical tests were on the whole disappointing. It failed to protect key registry areas, failed to detect even basic trojans, failed to detect process injection, failed to prevent malware-induced system crashes and flunked other tests as well. It even failed to protect itself against termination by hostile agents.

When tested against real malware products it did quite well on some tests. It passed the DFK blended threat simulation with flying colors and provided total protection against drive-by download sites.

With keyloggers it was more of a mixed bag. Similarly, it's protection against loaded downloads was at best moderate.

On closer inspection of the results, SafeConnect performed best when it positively identified malware using its inbuilt signature database. When working as a straight HIPS it was less impressive; quite a few malware actions were missed and even those detected often involved the issuing of a generic warning messages that provided little guidance to the user.

On balance I'd say SafeConnect is a competent HIPS that will definitely provide additional protection for your PC. However, based on my tests, other HIP products such as CyberHawk and Prevx1 provide better protection while sandboxing solutions such as DefenseWall and SandBoxie provide better protection still. For more details check out my lab notes [2] and past reviews of HIPS products [3].

[1] http://www.sanasecurity.com/products/sc/index.php Shareware, $24.95, 15 day trial, Windows 2000 and later, 12.6MB
[2] http://www.techsupportalert.com/Security Tests/HIPS/Primary Response SafeConnect V2.1.htm
[3] http://www.techsupportalert.com/security_HIPS.htm

2.3 Free Utility Protects Data on Stolen Laptops

Regular contributor JW has let me know about an interesting piece of software called LaptopLock that can protect your data in the event someone steals your laptop.

It works like this: you install the software on your PC and register your PC at the LaptopLock website. If someone steals your PC you log into the LaptopLock site and flag the PC as stolen. When the thief turns on your PC the software checks with the LaptopLock site, notes that it is stolen and then either deletes your private data or encrypts it depending on how what you instructed during registration.

Connection details are also logged at the LaptopLock site to assist in recovery of your laptop. If the thief doesn't connect to the internet, the PC is locked up after a period of time and can only be unlocked using a password. It's a neat solution that addresses an increasingly common problem.

 I wouldn't rely on this product for military grade protection but it should be adequate for most normal uses. Freeware, Windows 2000 and XP, 520KB
http://www.thelaptoplock.com/

2.4 Free Browser Add-on Protects Login Credentials

KeyScrambler is an add-on for Internet Explorer and Firefox that encrypts your user name and password when signing on to secure websites. KeyScrambler works at the driver level; it captures your keystrokes from the keyboard and encrypts them deep within Windows before they become visible to other applications. It then decrypts them immediately before they are displayed in your browser. In plain English this means that you won't even notice KeyScrambler is working yet keyloggers will only see incomprehensible encrypted data.

When you visit a secure website with KeyScrambler installed, a little pop-up appears momentarily in your browser to let you know KeyScrambler is working. That aside, you wouldn't know KeyScrambler was there.

It's a nice idea and I confirmed that it works as advertised by using a commercial keylogger. With KeyScrambler installed, all the keylogger captured when I logged into a test account was harmless garbage.

Is it foolproof? Of course not, no security measure is. First, it's useless against a hardware keylogger that sits between the keyboard and the PC. Such devices are relatively uncommon however and are usually physically obvious. Second, it may be possible to write a keylogger that hooks into the keyboard before KeyScrambler. I don't know of any such product but there's no reason why it couldn't be created.

That said, KeyScrambler is an excellent addition to your security arsenal. It's free, operates transparently, doesn't affect your PC's performance and is available for both IE and Firefox. An enhanced Professional version is available that protects your credit card and other financial data in addition to your login credentials. Many thanks to subscriber Worth Banner for the suggestion. Freeware, Windows 2000, XP, IE6, IE7, Firefox 1.5 or later, approx 600KB.

http://www.qfxsoftware.com/products.htm

2.5 Microsoft Patch Fixes Slow Running IE7

I'm still getting letters from subscribers complaining that Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 7 runs very slowly when visiting some web sites. The problem is due to the phishing filter in IE7 using excessive CPU resources when evaluating individual sites with multiple frames or surfing quickly between frame-based sites. The problem has been known for months and Microsoft issued a patch back on the 12th of December 2006. If you find the problem persists after applying the patch then try disabling the phishing filter from within IE7 using Tools / Internet Options / Advanced.
http://tinyurl.com/yna8n3    (Microsoft.com)

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.6 Best Free Video Converter

I have long been recommending "Super" [1] for video conversion because of the huge range of formats it can handle. However, Super is overkill for most users who simply want to convert video to MP4 for use on their iPod, PSP or smart phone. If that's you then check out "Any Video Converter" [2]. It has a better interface than Super, is easier to use and is lightning fast as well. Input formats include DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV and AVI. It's set up to make MP4 conversion as simple as possible but it can handle other output formats if you are prepared to delve into the options. Freeware, All Windows versions, 11.7MB.
[1] http://www.erightsoft.net
[2] http://www.download.com/Any-Video-Converter/3000-2194_4-10611989.html

2.7 Free Utility Keeps Track of Project Time

In the "best of 2006" issue of this newsletter I mentioned Project Timer [1], a simple stopwatch utility that keeps track of time worked on various projects. This prompted subscriber Fred Hayes to write, "Gizmo, to keep track of the time I spend on different projects I use a free utility called Timetool. It's very lightweight, extremely easy to use interface and the ability to save out to CSV files for import into Excel make it a gem." Nice find, Fred. TimeTool is an Open Source program that started out as a DOS utility which perhaps explains why it's so small - it will even fit on a floppy disk. I liked the way it easily handled multiple projects and the fact that it only needs to be running when you clock on or off. I just love simple specialist utilities like this. Freeware, all Windows versions, 359KB.
[1] http://pc.revivalteam.de/index.php?site=timer
[2] http://www.cratchit.org/TimeTool/

2.8 Best Free Screen Session Recorder

In issue #139 I asked readers to write in to nominate their favorite free utility for making movies of their computer screens. These things are really useful in tech support, product documentation, presentations or simply showing a relative how to do something.

There were lots of suggestions: Subscribers Eric Beschinski, Steve Lasley and Pierke Bosschieter liked Wink [1], Alan Kruger, Mike McClure and James Ronholm suggested Windows Media Encoder, A.K. liked AVI Screen Classic [3], Andrew Salottolo prefers iCord [4], Jon Bennett and Yotam Etal use Camstudio [5] while an anonymous contributor suggested the open source Krut recorder [6].

I tried each and they all work fine. I liked Wink most because of its ease of use, great flexibility and powerful annotation features. Iit only produces movies in Flash or executable file formats, though. Wink is freeware for Windows 98 and later and weighs in at 2.8MB.

If you need AVI format then Windows Media Encoder V9 will do the job elegantly. However it requires Windows 2000 and later and is a fat 9.4MB download.

If neither of these meets your needs, check out the others; they are all fine products.

Thanks to all those who wrote in with their suggestions.

[1] http://www.debugmode.com/wink/
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/forpros/encoder/default.mspx
[3] http://www.bobyte.com/
[4] http://oss.ipov.org/icord/
[5] http://www.camstudio.org
[6] http://sourceforge.net/projects/krut

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

The recent pattern of criminals focusing security attacks on Microsoft Office products rather than Windows continues. Three new zero day flaws in Word were revealed during the month with active exploits of circulation. This is in addition to the Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint flaws previously reported.

As at the time of publication, no patch has been issued by Microsoft for any of the three Word flaws.

From a user's perspective all Office files including Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents should now be treated with the same caution as executable files. Certainly never open any of these documents attached to an email from an untrusted source.

On Patch Tuesday, January 9, Microsoft released four new bulletins, three of which covered flaws rated as "Critical."

Two of the three critical level patches covered extremely serious Outlook and Excel flaws, exploits for which have been in active and widespread circulation for some time. The other critical level patch covered the Vector Markup Language used in Windows 2000 and later Windows versions.

Full details of the January updates can be found here [1]. All the updates are distributed automatically via the Microsoft Update Service. Dial-up users in particular need to be aware that these updates are large files and will need a considerable period of time online for them to download successfully. If you have any doubts whether you have received the updates then visit the Microsoft Update Service [2] now.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms07-jan.mspx
[2] http://update.microsoft.com (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 Firefox Updated to V2.0.0.1

In late December Mozilla issued its first security update for V2 of Firefox and corresponding updates to Thunderbird V1.5 and the older Firefox V1.5. The update covers eight potential flaws as well as some improvements to product stability. To my knowledge there are no current exploits in circulation that utilize any of these flaws. However, it is essential that you update as the malware developers routinely reverse engineer security updates to identify flaws to exploit in unpatched machines. Users with automatic updates enabled should have had the new version automatically delivered and installed. You can check by selecting Help / About from within Firefox. If your version number is less than V2.0.0.1 (or 1.5.0.8 for V1.5 users) then update manually from here:
http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/

3.3 Flaws in Adobe PDF Reader and Acrobat Fixed

Adobe has released a patch [1] for a serious cross site scripting flaw that affects all versions of the free Adobe Reader and paid Acrobat products prior to V7.09. A hostile site could use a specially constructed PDF to effectively take control of any PC that viewed the file. Version 8 has also been recently patched [2] to prevent related exploits but is not in itself vulnerable to the same exploit affecting V7.08 and earlier. The patches will be downloaded to all Acrobat users with automatic updates enabled. All other users of Adobe Reader and the full Acrobat suite should update their products manually immediately to (preferably) V8 or V7.09.
[1] http://www.adobe.com/support/security/bulletins/apsb07-01.html
[2] http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

3.4 Free Scanner Identifies USB Devices Attached to Network

Security firm Securewave is offering corporate users a free software tool called Device Scanner that identifies "the history of all portable storage devices that have ever connected to the scanned corporate endpoints." Sounds like a nice tool but the catch is that you have to contact a Securewave reseller to get it. That means a sales pitch. Still, USB devices are such a threat to corporate information that it may be worth it.
http://www.securewave.com/nwr_pressReleasesDetails.jsp?id=80244&metadataId=80244

3.5 Free Online Malware Scan

Subscriber Jean-Marc Schroot recently wrote to let me know that Ewido (AKA AVG Anti-Spyware) offers a free online scan of your computer. Ewido is an excellent all round anti-spyware and anti-malware scanner and this online service is highly recommended for those who don't have Ewido installed on their PC. You may be surprised what it finds. Better still, if it does find any infections it will attempt to remove them. It's ActiveX-based so you'll need to visit the site using Internet Explorer.
http://www.ewido.net/en/onlinescan/

4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 More Ways to Buy Books Online Cheaply

In issue #139 I recommended you check out book prices at Fetchbook [1]. This prompted subscriber Joe Luttrell to write, "Gizmo, here are a couple of other sites [2,3] that are as good or better; try them out and see what you think." I did, Joe, and they are excellent.
[1] http://www.fetchbook.info/
[2] http://www.addall.com (both new and used)
[3] http://www.vialibri.net (beta version)

4.2 Two Additional "Official" Windows XP Themes

Subscriber Joe Souza writes, "I recently tried a hack that allowed the use of non Microsoft themes. However, I was really disappointed in the third party themes that I tried and was looking for a new one when I found this unreleased official theme [1] from Microsoft called Royale. I had seen this theme before on computers running Media Center Edition and I really like it. Since then I've also located a black version [2]." Thanks for that, Joe. Royale has been circulating for a couple of years now and to my eyes is quite similar to the standard XP Luna theme but other folks think it's a big improvement. I didn't know about the black version of Royale and this may appeal to those who want a dark theme but don't want to use a third party product.
[1] http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/Royale-Theme-for-WinXP--official-Download-13027.html
[2] http://www.istartedsomething.com/20061029/royale-noir/

4.3 How to Charge AA Batteries from a USB Port

Subscriber Joel Williams recently wrote to tell me this fabulous idea. These cells look like a normal rechargeable AA battery but when you flip down the top of the cell there is a standard USB plug so that you recharge the cell from your PC. Joel covers the subject fully in an entry in his blog [1] or you can get more details from the manufacturer's site [2].
[1] http://www.lifegoggles.com/?p=73
[2] http://www.usbcell.com/

4.4 Watch TV, Webcams or Listen to Radio on Your PC

Sites that allow you to listen to live radio have been around for ages but more recently they have added live TV feeds as well. This site suggested by subscriber "Janus" offers radio, TV and a huge array of webcams from around the world.
http://www.roxcast.com

4.5 Your 64-Bit Software Questions Answered

Subscriber George Finizio has been researching running software on a 64-bit version of Windows. George writes, "Gizmo, in a nutshell, not ALL 32-bit software can run on a 64-bit OS like XP Pro x64. You have to have 64-bit drivers in most if not all instances. Additionally, some programs including most security programs such as internet suites, firewalls, AV and anti-spyware programs have to be written in 64-bit code. There are some good 64-bit programs available but don't necessarily expect to find the ones you really want. I couldn't and that's why I've decided that it's currently premature to go to 64-bit. The situation may, however, change after the release of Vista. If you're interested in monitoring some of the developments in the 64-bit realm check out this excellent web site:"
http://www.start64.com

4.6 Useless Waste of Time Department

Subscriber Callie Jordan has contributed some excellent suggestions to this item but on this occasion she has excelled herself: "Gizmo, this game has been labeled as the most addicting Flash game on the Internet and I'm inclined to agree." Thanks Callie.
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/40255643/

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

4.7 How to get Commercial Software for Free

Literally dozens of subscribers have written in to tell me about this site that each day offers a different collection of commercial software for free. The items are only available for 24 hours and you have to download and install any program you want in that timeframe. It sounds great but I must say that most of the software offered is uninspiring. Occasionally, though, there are some real gems so it's worth visiting the site regularly or subscribing to the RSS feed.
http://www.giveawayoftheday.com/

4.8 Have Web Pages Read to You

Here's a suggestion from subscriber Jerry Chance that will be really useful to the sight-impaired and those with literacy problems. The Browsealoud site reads web pages aloud.
http://www.browsealoud.com/

4.9 More Vista Features for XP Users

Subscriber Chris Price writes, "Gizmo, by now you probably know that one of the great technologies in Windows Vista is the new Integrated Desktop Search feature, which is designed to make it extremely easy to find files on your hard disk no matter where they're stored. You probably also know that Microsoft recently released Windows Desktop Search 3.0 for Windows XP, which uses the same search technology and indexing engine as Windows Vista. So, by downloading and installing Windows Desktop Search 3.0 in Windows XP, you'll have the power of Windows Vista's new search technology while retaining the same user interface of the previous versions of Windows Desktop Search."
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/desktopsearch/default.mspx

5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Use Mouse Shortcuts

Now this is a subject area I hadn't even considered until I got an email from South African subscriber Cobus Jacobs.

Cobus had just read my article on keyboard shortcuts in #139 and wrote in to suggest three tips for use on any mouse with a scrolling wheel. Here's what he had to say:

"1. In addition to the usual up-and-down scrolling, you can hold shift while scrolling to scroll side-ways (very handy in big spreadsheets or Windows Explorer in the details/list view).

2. In most applications that have a zoom feature such as MS Office Suite, Acrobat Reader and IrfanView, holding down Ctrl while scrolling will zoom in and out. Sure it's just as easy as clicking the zoom-icon, but it becomes especially useful when throwing a spreadsheet/pdf in full-screen mode during a presentation. Suddenly your toolbar is gone, no worries, just ctrl-scroll away!

3. Clicking your wheel-button usually results in your mouse cursor changing shape; typically a round circle with arrows in it. Now you can scroll in any direction using mouse movement instead of rolling the wheel. Clicking the wheel again returns your mouse to its trusty cursor."

Cobus goes on to correctly point out these features are dependent on your mouse driver however they will work with most including the default settings for just about all Logitech drivers.

Of course, many drivers allow the customization of the function of mouse buttons but most users have never delved into the options available in their mouse software. Check out the Mouse applet in Windows Control Panel; you may be surprised what you find.

To me the most effective mouse shortcuts of all are mouse gestures, that is the use of specific movements of the mouse to perform a command. They take a little time to get used to but once you do you'll wonder how you worked without them, particularly for web navigation.

My favorite utility for implementing gestures is StrokeIt. It's easy to use, easy to train and comes with over 80 pre-programmed gestures that work with many popular applications. It's also free for personal use and works with all Windows versions from Windows 98 onwards. Be warned, though; if you try it you may well find yourself addicted. :>)

http://www.tcbmi.com/strokeit/

6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 The Fastest BitTorrent Client Yet

BitTyrant V1.1 is a hot-rodded version of the popular Open Source BitTorrent client Azureus V2.5.

The modification is fiendishly clever. While most clients only consider the number of peers available for downloading, BitTyrant also considers the capacity of each peer and the data rate required to ensure reciprocation. It then utilizes this information using a dynamic algorithm to send only to the highest capacity peers data at the minimum rate for them to reciprocate.

In plain English this translates to your downloads running faster, much faster; around 65% on my tests.

Now, the standard Azureus client may be one of the most full featured clients available but it's certainly not the fastest kid on the block. With the BitTyrant mods, though, it's a speed demon. In fact, it's the fastest client I've tried.

Here's the downside:

First, this kind of mod breaks down some of the fairness characteristics of the BitTorrent protocol. If you are not comfortable with that then don't use BitTyrant.

Second, the standard Azureus client is updated regularly but there is no guarantee that BitTyrant will be kept up-to-date with the latest version. The authors of Azureus may even knobble the product to prevent the mod.

That said, the current V1.1 version of BitTyrant based on Azureus V2.5 is the fastest BitTorrent client yet.

Freeware, all Windows versions plus other operating systems, 8.11MB.
http://bittyrant.cs.washington.edu/

** Bonus Freebie for Premium Edition subscribers **

6.2 The Best Free Spam Filter

If you're sick of spam email cluttering up your Outlook (or Outlook Express) in-box then you are going to love this utility.

It's a network based spam filtering system that uses the opinions of over two million users worldwide to help classify spam and what's not.

Like all network based spam filters it requires no training: it's ready to go the minute you install it.

Each email is checked after it is received. If the email has been classified as spam by a lot of other users on the network then it deleted from your in-box and placed in a spam mail folder.

Watching the spam disappear from your in-box is singularly gratifying; the more so given no user intervention is required.

The user only needs to get involved if any spam is left in the in-box. The user should then select the spam mail items and press the special "Spam" button in the Outlook Toolbar. This will flag to the network that this email is spam and at the same time move the message to the spam mail folder.

It's very similar in fact to my favorite spam filter, Cloudmark Desktop. It works similarly, has a similar ability to detect genuine spam and shares Cloudmark's characteristic of virtually never classifying your real mail as spam.

But there's an important difference; Cloudmark costs $39.95 per year while this product is free for personal use.

It's called SPAMfighter [1] and is available as a free version and a $29 per user Pro version. The later allows commercial use and includes some additional features, the most important of which is the ability to remove the SPAMfighter ad that is inserted at the end of any email you send. To my eyes the ad is quite unobtrusive but some folks may not like it.

I tested SPAMFIghter's performance against Cloudmark on a sample of around 1100 emails of which 69% were spam.

Cloudmark detected 94.2% of the spam while SPAMfighter detected 93.9%, an essentially identical result. These are good figures though not class-leading. Much more importantly, the number of real emails falsely classified as spam was zero in each case; an outstanding result.

The whole product is really impressive, the only important downside being the SPAMfighter ad inserted at the end of your outward email.

Every Outlook and Outlook Express user should try this. You will not be disappointed.

Thanks to subscriber Steve Ziltner for the original suggestion.

Free for personal use, Windows ME and later, Outlook Express 5.5 and later or Outlook 2000 and later, 842KB, Microsoft Certified Partner.

http://www.spamfighter.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.
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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.

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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