gizmo richards' support alert newsletter

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

Premium Edition
Issue
150, 18th October, 2007

If you experience problems reading this issue in your email program you can read this issue online from the Supporters' Area here: http://www.techsupportalert.com/members/index.htm

IN THIS PREMIUM ISSUE:

0. EDITORIAL: Never re-install Windows again

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 Huge List of Free Open Source Apps
1.2 One Location for all Keyboard Shortcuts
1.3 Check Web Link Safety
1.4 Web Service Identifies Fonts
1.5 Great Collection of Custom 404 Error Pages
1.6 Decompression Bombs as a Computer Security Risk
1.7 Free Tutorials from Microsoft (Premium Edition)
1.8 How to Bypass HIPS Protection (Premium Edition)
1.9 25GB of Free Online Storage (Premium Edition)
1.10 How to Create Self-Destructing Email (Premium Edition)
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 The Best Free CD / DVD Burner
2.2 Free Utility Cuts Cost of Printing
2.3 Add Sticky Notes to Web Pages or Anything Else
2.4 Free Utility Splits and Merges PDF Files
2.5 Eset NOD32 Smart Security Suite: First Impressions
2.6 Subscriber Suggestions for the "46 Best-ever Freeware List"
2.7 Free Utility Shows how you Spend Your Time
2.8 The Best Font Manager (Premium Edition)
2.9 Firefox Extension Monitors Website Changes (Premium Edition)
2.10 Free Suite of Portable Data Recovery Tools (Premium Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 An Alternative to the Late, Lamented AutoPatcher
3.3 Patches Released for Java, iTunes and Adobe Acrobat
3.4 BlackLight Anti-rootkit no Longer Available
3.5 Ransomeware on the Rise
3.6 How to Harden Your PC Against Attack
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 Science Fiction Laser Virtual Keyboard now a Reality
4.2 How to get Rid of Computer Cable Clutter
4.3 An Easy Way to Enhance Desktop Icons
4.4 How to Make Your Own Cola Soft Drink
4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.6 How to Generate a New Identity (Premium Edition)
4.7 Free CAD Software (Premium Edition)
4.8 The Best Collection of Free Software (Premium Edition)
4.9 Free Utility Makes You Look More Attractive in Photos (Premium)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 How to Add Tabs to Windows Explorer
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 The Best Free Media Player
6.2 The Best Free Remote Access Solution (Premium Edition)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0.0 EDITORIAL

Have you ever had to re-install Windows from scratch? If so you know what a slow and tedious process it can be. But if you take a few precautions there's no need for you ever to do it again.

I haven't re-installed Windows for years. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, I haven't re-installed Windows since the arrival of Windows XP in 2001.

Don't get me wrong. I've often had corrupted systems; probably more than most folks. It's just that I have solved the problem of getting Windows working again in another way.

Rather than re-install Windows, I recover my system from a backup image of my system drive. This usually takes around 10 minutes and I don't even have to be in attendance.

That's a big difference to the hours it takes to re-install Windows and go through the additional hoops of downloading all the Windows updates. Furthermore, I don't have to re-install my application software because they all get restored from the backup image along with Windows.

It's such an attractive and powerful approach that I recommend all users should setup a drive imaging backup system for their computers. You can even do it using free software.

Setting up a drive imaging solution is within the grasp of most computer users but it's not a piece of cake. It is, however, definitely worth the effort. Over the next couple of months I will walk you through the various steps involved and talk about the software you need. This month I'll start by explaining the process.

Drive imaging works by using special software to take a snapshot image of the hard drive on which you have Windows installed. If you create this image when Windows is working correctly, you can then use your imaging software to restore an exact replica of this working copy of Windows should Windows ever become corrupted.

Restoring from an image is a much more complete process than using Windows Restore. The latter only recovers the Windows Registry and some important system files. Restoring from an image recovers your entire Windows installation and everything else installed on your system drive, including all your software applications.

If you have ever had a corrupted Windows system or a spyware infection that cannot be removed, then you will understand just how valuable it is to restore a fresh and fully functional version of your system.
However for the drive imaging process to work effectively you need to do some preparation work before you create your images.

The first thing you need to do is to re-arrange your hard drive so that Windows and your application programs are on a separate disk drive or partition to your data.

Many PCs have only one large hard drive or partition, usually the C: drive. On that drive, Windows, your program files and your documents are all mixed in together. To separate them, you need to use a drive partitioning program to split the big C: drive into two or more smaller drives. These new drives created are logical, not physical, but the effect is the same as if you have physically separate drives.

So if you start with a 200GB C: drive containing everything, then after partitioning you might, for example, end up with a 20GB C: drive containing Windows, your Program Files and Windows user accounts, plus a 180GB D: drive containing your email, documents, photos, media files, etc.

The point of this partitioning is to allow the creation of a small manageable drive image of the 20GB partition containing only Windows and your application programs, rather than a huge drive image of everything on your hard drive.

And it's not only a question of image size. If you restore from a backup image you certainly don't want to overwrite your data. Otherwise you would lose any changes to your data since the time the backup image was created.

Once you have partitioned your hard drive, the next step is to move your data onto the new partition. This includes moving the "My Documents" folder plus any folders you have created containing your personal data. This step is not technically difficult but it does require a bit of care.

Finally, once you have partitioned your disk and moved your data to a separate partition, you can create your first system drive image. Compared to the previous steps this is a piece of cake. And so is restoring your system drive from an image. But that will have to wait until the end of this series. The first step is drive partitioning and that will be next month's topic.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com

PS Next month's issue will be published on Thursday the 22nd of November. I'll be taking a recreational break in between and will be out of email contact. Be patient; you'll get a reply when I'm back and have caught up with my email backlog :>)


1.0 TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 Huge List of Free Open Source Apps
What's nice about this one is that it groups the 480+ programs by category. Descriptions are given but unfortunately there are no indicators for popularity or quality. Thanks to Timo Jaakkimainen for sending me the link.
http://mashable.com/2007/09/23/open-source/

1.2 One Location for all Keyboard Shortcuts
Quickly locate the keyboard shortcuts for hundreds of programs at this handy site. Find what you want by category or product search.
http://www.keyxl.com

1.3 Check Web Link Safety
Type in a web link at this site and they will scan to see if the website is hostile. Use this free service when someone sends you a link that you don't quite trust.
http://linkscanner.explabs.com/linkscanner/checkstep.asp

1.4 Web Service Identifies Fonts
"Ever wanted to find a font just like the one used by certain publications, corporations, or ad campaigns? Well now you can, using our WhatTheFont font recognition system. Upload a scanned image of the font and instantly find the closest matches in our database."
http://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/

1.5 Great Collection of Custom 404 Error Pages
Ah, such creativity; 404s from the clever to the funny. Thanks to JW for the link.
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/08/17/404-error-pages-reloaded/

1.6 Decompression Bombs as a Computer Security Risk
A decompression bomb is typically a zip file that has been compressed by a huge amount resulting in a small file that takes forever to unpack. Clicking the zip file will essentially bring you computer to a halt; a kind of denial-of-service attack. Read the full details here:
http://solitude.vkps.co.uk/Archives/2006/01/08/decompressionbombs/

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

1.7 Free Tutorials from Microsoft
Regular contributor Callie Jordan writes "Gizmo, I've recently stumbled onto a lot of free e-learning material from Microsoft. I had attended free live presentations they have around the country but then discovered that the live presentations are often simultaneously webcast. Then I found out they do webcasts all the time and they have covered just about everything. You can join them when they're live in which case you can ask questions and take polls and/or view/download them afterwards, which is what I do. The web addresses for this material are scattered all over the place. I suggested to Microsoft they consolidate their listings, but they don't really listen to me." Nice find Callie and don't worry, Microsoft doesn't listen to me either. On that score, just who DO they listen to?
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/FX100565001033.aspx
http://www.microsoft.com/events/series/officesystemwebcasts.aspx
http://www.microsoft.com/events/default.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/events/office.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/using/windowsvista/tipsandtricks/webcasts.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/using/windowsvista/tipsandtricks/default.mspx

1.8 How to Bypass HIPS Protection
This PDF file contains a set of slides presented by Eugene Tsyrklevich at one of the very early BlackHat conferences. The presentation is both technically enlightening and at times terrifying. At the very least it underscores the difficulty in trying to protect your PC from malware that has been allowed to run on your PC. My advice these days is to put maximum effort into preventing malware from ever getting onto your PC rather than relying on security software to detect intruders. Thanks to subscriber Hank Friedman for the link.
http://www.blackhat.com/presentations/bh-usa-04/bh-us-04-tsyrklevich.pdf (262KB)

1.9 25GB of Free Online Storage
Subscriber Charles Balch writes "Gizmo take a look at MediaMax [1] for online backup. I recommended it to my students and have heard nothing but good things about it." Nice find Charles; with 25GB of free space, file backup and synchronization, file sharing, browser access and large file send capability, it's a strong offering. However, while the 25GB storage limit is very generous, the download / share limit of 1GB/month and the modest 10MB maximum file send size is less impressive. Still, there is a lot to like here.
http://mediamax.com

1.10 How to Create Self-Destructing Email
That's right: email that conveniently destroys itself once read. This article lists several providers and discusses the pros and cons. Thanks to Noel Glucksman for the link.
http://www.smartcomputing.com/Editorial/article.asp?guid=&article=articles/2007/s1811/49s11/49s11.asp

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



2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 The Best Free CD / DVD Burner

CDBurnerXP Pro [1] has long been one of the best free burners around. With the release of the new version 4.0 it goes straight to the top of its class. The new version, now rebranded as "CDBurnerXP," is a total re-write. In the process they have stripped out unnecessary features and added many new ones, including support for Vista, Double layer DVDs, Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. Other features include disk-to-disk copy, bootable disk creation and the ability to create, read or burn ISO files.

Not to be dismissed is the latest version of the Open Source InfraCorder [2]. Like CDBurnerXP it handles CDs and DVDs, though not Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. That aside, the feature set is similar. Nero users will find the user interface both familiar and comfortable. My only complaint is that two of the ISOs I burned with InfraCorder were unreadable. It could be just my hardware, though CDBurnerXP didn't seem to have the same problem.

I suggest you try both of these products and choose what best suits your hardware and personal burning needs. With software like this available for free, it seems hard to justify outlaying money on commercial burners.

[1] http://cdburnerxp.se Freeware, Windows 2000 -> Vista, 1.97MB
[2] http://infrarecorder.sourceforge.net/ Windows 2000 -> Vista, 2.6MB

2.2 Free Utility Cuts Cost of Printing
Printing drafts of documents results in a lot of wasted paper. It's not only the paper cost; it's a waste of trees and energy as well. PrintFile is a free utility that reduces this cost by allowing you to print multiple logical pages on a single physical page, a technique known as "n-up" printing, a feature that is available on some modern printers. PrintFile is actually a full featured spooling print manager that can process plain text, PostScript, Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) and binary formats. Note that many of these functions are handled perfectly well by Windows, so the only real reason you would install it would be for the n-up printing. However, for many folks whose printers don't have an in-built n-up feature, this is sufficient reason in itself. I also note that the program has not been updated for some years. Thanks to subscriber Manuel Nuno Alçada for the suggestion. Freeware, All Windows versions up to XP, 198KB.
http://lerup.com/printfile/


2.3 Add Sticky Notes to Web Pages or Anything Else
Subscriber Christian Hess Araya writes "Gizmo in issue #149 you mentioned the Firefox extension Internote that allows you to attach notes to webpages so that when you revisit the page the sticky note is automatically displayed. I'd like to let you know about Stickies [1], a free utility, will let you do the very same thing, not limited to webpages but to *any* open window. That makes it so much more useful, IMHO." When I first received this message from Christian I wasn't sure that Stickies would display a note when you re-visited a webpage but it sure does - it remembers the window title. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 953KB
http://www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/

2.4 Free Utility Splits and Merges PDF Files
Subscriber Michael C. Berrier writes "Gizmo, I routinely work with PDF files of 200 pages or more and often have cause to extract single pages for presentations or whatever. Even with the full commercial version of Adobe Acrobat, that means taking out each page one at a time unless you want to pay for an add-in. Enter Gios PDF Splitter and Merger. Just as the site says, it's the first (and only easily located) free and open source PDF split and merge utility. It is indeed freeware, does not require a separate PDF editor and works in a flash. I quickly and easily busted a 200 page file into individual pages in far less time than I could have in Acrobat." Nice find Michael, I really like specialized utilities like this; it's a tiny 30KB file that doesn't require installation. Adobe PDF format has become so widespread that it's really useful to have available some free tools that can manipulate the PDF files without having to buy the full Adobe Acrobat product. If other readers are using a good free PDF utility please email me and I'll share the news around. Freeware, Microsoft .NET V1.1 required, 29KB
http://www.paologios.com/

2.5 Eset NOD32 Smart Security Suite: First Impressions
Regular contributor "Briard" is also a regular user of ESET's NOD32 anti-virus program so he was keen to test a beta version of ESET's latest product, the Smart Security Suite, that combines NOD32 with a firewall and spam filtering. By and large he was impressed; you can read the full story here [1]. It's worth noting that the security suite contains an upgraded version of the NOD32 AV program. This is a good move because NOD32 is just beginning to show its age. It's still a top performer but has slipped in its detection rating from being the best in its class to simply being among the top group. If the new version manages to beef up its detection rate for the latest malware products yet retain the low resource usage of the current product, then Eset will have a real winner.
[1] http://www.techsupportalert.com/review-eset-smart-security-suite.php

2.6 Possible Additions to the "46 Best-ever Freeware List"
Subscriber Matt Perkins has sent me a long list of candidates for my "46 Best-ever Freeware" list. I agree with him on most of the suggestions though certainly not all. That reservation stated here's what he recommends:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/matts-list.php

2.7 Free Utility Shows how you Spend Your Time

Last month I mentioned RescueTime, a web service/software combination that allows you to determine how you spend your time in front of a PC.

Subscriber Roland Bennett wrote to tell me about his own software that does the same and more. Furthermore, it's free and Open Source. Here's Roland's description:

"Ever spent the day in front of your PC, only to wonder at 5pm what you did that day? TimeTracker (TT) will tell you. TT will sit in your system tray and check every second which window is currently active on your desktop. The active window is the one you are currently typing or clicking in, and should be an accurate estimate of what you are working on.

TT captures the window caption from the title bar and tracks the active time for that window. TT also allows the traditional feature of manual timers, you may enter your own task name and either double click (or use Space or Enter) to start/stop the task timer.

The main aim of TT is to be a time tracking tool that requires very little user intervention. Who wants to do the boring work of timesheets? Rules allow TT to be able to tell which window activity belongs to which user task. Rules can be one or more partial window captions or file names, when any one of these conditions are met TT will start the task timer. When the conditions cease, TT will stop the task timer." Free Open Source software, Windows 98 -> Vista, 540KB

http://ttracker.sourceforge.net/,

Editor's note: There are quite a few free time tracking programs around. If anyone is interested in doing a short comparative review please email me.

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.8 The Best Font Manager

This item was written by subscriber Peter McDonell, AKA "Font Pharos". Peter has had a consuming interest in fonts and typography for more than ten years and is a regular commentator on the subject. Peter and I had a long email discussion about font managers and in the end I asked if he would write up his recommendations. Here they are:

Confused about the relationship between a font and a typeface? Then you had best read this (1) first.


Well, what do I want from a font manager? Several things:

I look for a utility which can present to me samples of fonts, probably using my own text phrase.
I want to be able to check out True type (TTF), Type 1 (PFB/PFM) and Open Type Fonts (OTF), all whether installed or not.

I may want to use the utility to install or uninstall fonts, and I'd prefer it didn't lock up just because I've pointed it at a folder containing several thousand typefaces.

Over the years some excellent font utilities have emerged and then stagnated, perhaps in part because more recent versions of word processors incorporate font viewers to help in choosing between your installed typefaces. Additionally, font viewing functions have now been incorporated into the Windows and OS X operating systems.

The good news is that the field has not been entirely abandoned. Have a look at the following utilities - I've used them all:

AMP Font Viewer 380 handles/browses all uninstalled and installed fonts (2).

FontPicker is a handy comparative tool to compare installed fonts (3).

Extended Character Map is a boon for dingbat (4) fonts. It can be found at the following obsolete software sites (5), (6).

If you are mainly interested in reviewing your installed fonts the free Fast Font Preview (13) provides a quick multi-line view but doesn't review all types of uninstalled fonts.

Not all fonts contain Unicode characters (10) but if that's your thing BabelMap may be just what you want (11). Start with Basic Latin! See also this neat Unicode Viewer (12).

Among commercial products Typograf is the very best I have found; it's well worth registering (7). Typograf reviews installed and uninstalled typefaces of all kinds. It has an excellent keyboard representation for making dingbat font use easy. It installs, uninstalls and does all but wash the dishes. The makers, Neuber, also offer an impressive little type twisting program - excellent for creating banners, headers and so on (8). There is a certain thoroughness about their products that makes them a delight to explore and use.

Bitstream Font Navigator, though discontinued, is still in CorelDraw as version 6. This site (9) shows how you can get it. I tested this and it does work, but it's a pain to download the huge CorelDraw Suite just to get the font manager.

Several other commercial products are worth a mention as they also understand TrueType, OpenType and Type 1 typefaces, whether installed or uninstalled.

Font Map (14) has a range of character views but recent updates are only available to registered users.

MainType (15) is an excellent multi-line font viewer and management utility which handles all forms of typefaces, whether installed or uninstalled. This font viewer was recently created (December 2005) and has gone through various contemporary updates. It has plenty of printing options but no keyboard character map.

So what do I recommend? Among the free managers AMP Font Viewer is the best overall for average users, while for commercial managers Typograf is an easy first choice.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typeface
(1a) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Font_%28disambiguation%29
(2) http://www.ampsoft.net/utilities/FontViewer.php
(3) http://www.charten.com/Products/FontPicker.htm
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dingbat
(5) http://www.woundedmoon.org/win32/extendedcharactermap141.html
(6) http://www.pricelesswarehome.org/2007/PL2007TEXT.php#0261-PW
(7) http://www.neuber.com/typograph/index.html
(8) http://www.neuber.com/twister/index.html
(9) http://www.noscope.com/journal/2004/09/font-management-solution
(10) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicode
(11) http://www.babelstone.co.uk/Software/BabelMap.html
(12) http://www.soft-gems.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26&Itemid
(13) http://www.lanmisoft.com/fastfontpreview.htm
(14) http://www.ccountry.net/~dix/fontmap.htm
(15) http://www.high-logic.com/maintype.html

2.9 Firefox Extension Monitors Website Changes
In recent issues I've been recommending that subscribers use either my RSS feed [1] or Goggle FeedBurner's email notification service [2] to alert them when each new issue of this newsletter is published. Now there is another option. Subscriber Stef Robertson wrote to tell me of a free Firefox extension called Update Scanner [3] that monitors nominated webpages and notifies you when anything has changed. It's a great option for monitoring any web site that interests you, such as a competitor's product page. To use it to monitor new issues of this newsletter, simply set it up to watch my "current issue" page [4] which I update each time a new issue is published.
[1] http://techsupportalert.com/rss/monthly-issue-free.xml
[2] http://techsupportalert.com/feedburner.htm
[3] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3362
[4] http://techsupportalert.com/issues/al_current.htm

2.10 Free Suite of Portable Data Recovery Tools
ADRC Data Recovery Tools is comprised of a set of five tools operated from a common user interface. The tools are: a file undelete utility, an error tolerant file copier, a binary file image copier along the lines of Ghost, a drive imaging creation and restore program and, finally, a drive boot record builder/manager. When I first saw that the download file was only 44KB I thought, "That's way too small, this has got to be a trojan." This impression was reinforced when I first ran the program and it tried to launch my browser. But it isn't a trojan; it's just an efficiently written program that packs a lot of functionality into a small space. And the browser launch was simply to bring up a help file. As ever, first impressions can be very wrong. Anyway, I tried out all five functions available in the program and they all worked well, with the exception of the drive image restore which, on my XP SP2 test PC, corrupted several Windows files. In the end I had to recover these files using an Acronis True Image backup, so I'd stay away from imaging feature. Given that this program is small and portable, it's a great candidate for your USB toolkit. Freeware 95 -> XP, 44KB
http://www.adrc.com/software/data_recovery_tools/


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


3.0 SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News

This month, Microsoft's "Patch Tuesday" saw the release of six security bulletins from Microsoft covering nine separate flaws. Four of the bulletins addressed zero day flaws, including several for which exploits were already circulating. This yet again highlights how the computer security threat has shifted in the last year to the exploitation of new undocumented flaws. Email remains the main attack vector but hostile websites are becoming increasingly common.

From a user's perspective this shift means that you cannot depend on Windows updates to protect against the exploitation of flaws in your software. Increasingly, program updates are being released after exploits have been in active circulation, which leaves your PC vulnerable in the interim. This is not a theoretical issue, it is a real problem. Indeed, just a few days after the October Patch Tuesday a new flaw was found in Internet Explorer with active exploits now in circulation. That's right folks; your copy of Internet Explorer is now vulnerable.

This shift to zero day attacks also poses problems for signature-based security software such as anti-virus scanners. By the time signature files are updated with the new exploits it may be too late for many users.

What is needed is an alternative approach to PC security that is less reliant on product fixes and signature-based security products. I've talked about this at length in recent issues; you can read a summary here [1].

Further details of the Microsoft October updates can be found here [2]. 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 you 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 [3] now.

[1] http://techsupportalert.com/how-to-secure-your-pc.php
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms07-sep.mspx
[3] http://update.microsoft.com (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 An Alternative to the Late, Lamented AutoPatcher
Last month I told you how Microsoft had forced the closure of AutoPatcher, a free service that allowed users to download all Windows Updates since SP2 in a single file. This prompted subscriber Paul Lawrence to write "Gizmo there is an alternative to AutoPatcher, called Offline Update [1]. I believe it is more like the current project that Autopatcher.com has started working on that will download updates directly from Microsoft. This should avoid any potential legal problems. It works by creating an .ISO file to burn to disk so you can distribute the updates to other computers. I tried it on my other computer with a fresh XP install. The executables ran smoothly and the update process worked like a charm! Then I ran Microsoft Update Online to see how well it did. I only had 10 updates that I had to download at that point, an excellent result. The only major con I see is the initial download is quite large which may be a problem for people with only dial-up. You can download the program here [2]." Thanks to the many other subscribers who also suggested Offline Update.
[1] http://www.heise-security.co.uk/articles/80682/0
[2] http://www.heise.de/ct/projekte/offlineupdate/download_uk.shtml

3.3 Patches Released for Java, iTunes and Adobe Acrobat
Yet more security fixes for these popular products. The best way to check whether or not your software needs updating is to use the free Secunia "Software Inspector" web service.
http://secunia.com/software_inspector/

3.4 BlackLight Anti-rootkit no Longer Available
Security firm F-Secure has discontinued [1] the stand-alone free beta version of their popular and highly effective BlackLight rootkit detector. BlackLight has now been incorporated into F-Secure's commercial security products. BlackLight will be missed but Panda's excellent free rootkit detector [2] is a worthy substitute for average users.
[1] http://www.f-secure.com/blacklight/
[2] http://www.majorgeeks.com/Panda_Anti-Rootkit_d5457.html

3.5 Ransomeware on the Rise
Ransomware [1] is a relatively new class of malware that extorts users by denying them access to their PC files. Also known as a cryptovirus, cryptotrojan or cryptoworm, this malware typically encrypts all files on a users PC so the user can no longer access any document. Payment is then demanded for the decryption key. Security company BullGuard [1] reports that, although still relatively rare, ransomeware incidence is on the rise and it could pose a serious threat in the future.
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransomware_%28malware%29
[2] http://www.bullguard.com

3.6 How to Harden Your PC Against Attack
Regular readers know that I'm a strong advocate of using either sandboxing or reduced program rights to prevent malware from getting on your PC. Subscriber Eric Santucci takes a different view and prefers the ideas of hardening your PC by locking down key system areas. He's so passionate about the idea that he's created a website that gives detailed instructions on just how to do it. It's an impressive piece of work that will have appeal to those who cannot get sandboxing programs to work on their PCs. Me, I'll stick with SandBoxie.
http://invincible-windows.blogspot.com/


4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 Science Fiction Laser Virtual Keyboard now a Reality
This is truly mind blowing. This $179 device projects an image of a full QWERTY keyboard on your desk or table. Type on the virtual keyboard and it goes straight to your smart phone, PDA or PC via Bluetooth. Just the thing for prolific SMS senders. Thanks to subscriber Roxie for the link.
http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/input/8193/

4.2 How to get Rid of Computer Cable Clutter
Is the area behind your desk an enormous mess of cables, power supplies, external drives, routers, etc? Here's a clever solution.
http://www.decluttered.com/

4.3 An Easy Way to Enhance Desktop Icons
Regular contributor Tony Bennett writes "Hey Gizmo, I have found this wonderful icon enhancer called IconTweaker [1]. It's more than a tweaker; it changes all the boring Windows icons to icons that are more vibrant. You have a choice of different styles, there is plug-in support and extra themes as well. I've sent it to some friends and they really are most impressed." Thanks Tony. The developer's website appears to be down but it's available from here [2] and other download sites as well.
[1] http://joost.endoria.net/home
[2] http://www.download.com/IconTweaker/3000-2195_4-10483133.html

4.4 How to Make Your Own Cola Soft Drink
The idea of an Open Source formula for a cola soft drink similar to Coke or Pepsi has been around for a while but many folks have had problems preparing the beverage properly. This [1] is the best set of instructions I've yet seen. Note the warning about adding too much caffeine; death is so permanent :>) If you want to experiment, this site [2] claims to have a copy of the original Coke formula.
[1] http://www.wikihow.com/Make-OpenCola
[2] http://www.sodamuseum.bigstep.com/generic.jhtml?pid=10

4.5 Useless Waste of Time Department
Is this [1] the most intellectually challenging game of all time. When you feel too mentally exhausted to continue, try this site [2] where you can harmlessly take revenge on websites you don't like. I liked the nuke option. Thanks to subscriber Bruce Mitchell for the links.
[1] http://www.zimm-co.com/PressTheSpaceBar/pressthespacebar2000.swf
[2] http://www.netdisaster.com/goff.php?mode=gun&lang=en&sound=on&url=http://www.google.com/

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

4.6 How to Generate a New Identity
Sick of those nosy websites that require all your personal details just to register? No problem, generate a new identity here [1] that you can use to complete registration. Thanks JW.
http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/

4.7 Free CAD Software
Subscriber Dave Berger writes "Gizmo I came across a free offering of commercial CAD software [1] that's an older version of a current product. It's an excellent product but requires registration. To avoid getting unsolicited mail just use a throwaway email address service like Spam Gourmet. Firefox users can do this using a terrific extension called Temporary Inbox [3] that's ideal for just this sort of thing."
[1] http://www.freeserifsoftware.com/software/DrawPlus/key_features.asp
[2] http://www.spamgourmet.com
[3] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2650

4.8 The Best Collection of Free Software
The OpenCD project was set up to provide a huge collection of free Windows Open Source applications and games in a single downloadable ISO file or CD. It was a great idea but updates were a bit slow coming. OpenDisc is a follow-on project with a similar objective, but it aspires to be more up-to-date and responsive to user needs. The early signs look encouraging, with an impressive download package [1] and a reasonably active blog and forum [2]. This is an extraordinary collection of software containing everything you could want to fully set up your PC. Do note, though, that the ISO download [3] is 555MB. Thanks to subscriber Patrick McCarty for letting me know about OpenDisc.
[1] http://theopendisc.com/programs/
[2] http://www.theopendisc.com/forum/
[3] http://theopendisc.com/latest-version/

4.9 Free Utility Makes You Look More Attractive in Photos
Subscriber Tony Bennett writes: "Gizmo this free software enhances faces in digital photos. Way cheaper than plastic surgery :>)"
http://www.reallusion.com/press/event/FaceFilterXpress/ff_promo.asp



5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Add Tabs to Windows Explorer

The lack of tabs in Windows Explorer is a real liability. Indeed, it's one of the main reasons why many users install an Explorer replacement such as XYPlorer and UltraExplorer.

However, not all users are comfortable straying from the standard Microsoft setup. For these folks there is some good news: It's quite possible to add tabs to Windows Explorer itself by using a free utility called QT TabBar. As a bonus, you'll not only get tabs but a few additional features, such as instant file viewing, thrown in as well.

I've been using QT TabBar on one of my PCs for a week now and have seen enough to be able to say that many PC users are going to view this as a great productivity tool. However, if you are already using an Explorer replacement like XYPlorer, then it's unlikely QT TabBar is for you.

QT TabBar may work well, but setting it up using the supplied instructions can be frustrating. So I've written a simplified guide. Before proceeding, note that QT TabBar only works with Windows XP and Vista. If using XP, the Microsoft .NET Framework V2.0 or 3.0 must also be installed.

Installation Guide:

(a) Go to QT TabBar site and download the ZIP file. (633KB)

(b) Locate the downloaded file; it will be called something like QTTabBar_glb_1.1.0.1.zip.

(c) Double click the ZIP file and extract the contents to a folder called QTTabBar on your desktop.

(d) Close the ZIP file and open the folder QTTabBar and double click the file QTTabBar.exe to install QTTabBar. When installing, accept the defaults.

(e) After installation, log off and then login again or simply reboot your PC.

(f) Open My Documents, click on View / Toolbars. If there is a check against Lock Toolbars then click on it to unlock the toolbars

(g) Click on View / Toolbars. Click on QT TabBar to enable that toolbar.

(h) After a few seconds the QT TabBar will appear. Use the handle at the left of the TabBar to drag and drop the TabBar down and to the left so it is the last visible toolbar.

(i) Click on View / Toolbars. Then click Lock Toolbars to relock.


(j) Move the folder QTTabBar from your desktop to somewhere safe such as c:\program files just in case you want to uninstall the product. How do you uninstall it? By installing again and selecting the uninstall option.

You are now ready to try QT TabBar. While still in your "My Documents" folder let's open some new tabs. You can do this several ways:

- The simplest is to middle click on a folder

- If you have no middle mouse button double click a folder while holding down the Shift key

- Drag and drop a folder onto the tab bar

- Double click a folder shortcut on your desktop


You can easily navigating between open tabs by clicking the tabs on the tab bar. You can also re-order tabs by dragging and dropping.

Imagine how much simpler this makes copying files from one folder to another or carrying out any form of file maintenance. But there's more to come:

As soon as you start using QT TabBar you'll notice a little blue arrow appearing beside your folder entries. Clicking that arrow shows the contents of the folder. If that folder contained sub-folders then a series of cascading drop down menus will open out if you click the sub-folders.

And now a really nice feature: hover over any plain text or image file and you'll see the text or image displayed.

There are quite a few other niceties as well, but I'll let you discover them. Of course, if you are desperate to know you could always read the manual :>)

One feature is not quite so nice. I had trouble fully uninstalling QT TabBar from one of my PCs. In could be a problem with that particular PC but just to be certain I suggest you install QT TabBar while the install is being monitored by an uninstaller such as the free ZSoft uninstaller [2] or Revo [3]. Mind you, I suspect you won't be uninstalling QT TabBar any time soon :>)

[1] QT TabBar: Freeware, Windows XP and Vista + NET 2.0 Framework, 633KB.
http://quizo.at.infoseek.co.jp/freeware/indexEn.html#qttab

[2] ZSoft Uninstaller: Freeware, Windows XP, 896KB
http://www.zsoft.dk/


[3] Revo Uninstaller: Freeware, Windows 2000 -> Vista, 1.34MB.
http://www.revouninstaller.com/


6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 The Best Free Media Player

The whole media player scene is a bit of a mess. None of the popular free single product solutions like Windows Media Player or iTunes do everything you want, and most take up too many resources in the process. Using specialist utilities has its attractions, but you can easily end up with a whole batch of programs simply to meet your different A-V needs. Indeed, it's not uncommon for users to end up with six or more utilities like iTunes for audio files, Windows Media Player for video files and ripping, Power DVD for DVD movies, VLC for .flv files and CDBurnerXP for CD and DVD burning

Now how about an all in one player done right? Introducing JetAudio Basic [1]. It burns CDs, rips CDs, converts all popular audio and video files, plays a wide range of audio files and video files including .FLV, and plays DVD movies as well. Other features include tag editing for MP3, OGG, and WMA files, cross fading of tracks, display of lyrics, sound effects, a wide range of skins and much more. And it's compatible with Vista as well.

It also has some very practical features, like a single console for all operations. Then there's toolbar mode. This is a floating toolbar that docks out of the way on any screen edge. It's there when you need it but doesn't get in the way of your daily work.

Most importantly, it's resource friendly and reliable. Unlike other media players it won't bog down your PC or cause unexpected freezes.

Its only downside is that it doesn't rip or convert to MP3 - that's only available in the paid version. Happily, you can easily add this capability by using the free Open source utility Audacity [2]. Team this up with the excellent free Lame encoder [3] and you have full MP3 functionality.

If you are tired of running multiple AV programs, do try JetAudio Basic. As a bonus your PC will run faster and more reliably as well. Freeware, Windows 98 -> Vista, 22.2MB.

This review was prepared by subscriber Matt Perkins. Matt's comments on other media players can be found here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/matts-suggestions.php

[1] http://www.cowonamerica.com/products/jetaudio/
[2] http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
[3] http://lame.sourceforge.net/index.php

*** Bonus Freebie in this Premium Edition ***

6.2 The Best Free Remote Access Solution

This review was prepared by subscriber Ed McCue
:

In my quest for free and secure remote access, I have come across three stand-out products.
Two of these are hosted solutions that offer basic (free) and premium (paid) usage.

The first one is LogMeIn [1]. I found LogMeIn to be a great product in terms of security and ease of use, though the free service doesn't support file transfer and remote printing. You have to pay for the premium service to get that.


LogMeIn employs 256-bit encryption, and connection can be made through either an ActiveX component or Java. The ActiveX remote viewing is far superior to the Java, but if you need to connect home from something other than a Windows PC with Internet Explorer then you will need to use the Java client.

I used the free version of LogMeIn successfully for quite a while but as my consultancy business grew I found I needed more features. I had initially considered paying for the premium version of LogMeIn but decided to look for a free alternative.

I did some research and found My Instant Virtual Office (MyIVO) [2]. MyIVO offered me what the free version of LogMeIn did not: secure access to my files. Though MyIVO does not use Activex like LogMeIn does, their Java client is a little better. Better still is the option to create an SSL tunnel into your home network, allowing the secure use of RDP.

All things being equal, though, I still wasn't satisfied. I liked the idea of SSL tunneling and decided to explore it further. At my day job we use a Juniper SSL VPN and it's a very nice product but over-kill for the home user, even the "Power" home user. So I started looking at open source VPN products. I wanted something with a high level of security and a tiny VPN client. What I found exceeded my expectations.

SSL Explorer is an outstanding Open Source program though definitely for the advanced user. It comes in two flavors: Enterprise [3] and Community [4], the latter being the free offering.

SSL Explorer will create a secure SSL tunnel into your network, and also comes with extensions for RDP and UltraVNC as your remote viewing clients. As opposed to LogMeIn and MyIVO, which use a Java client to view a remote desktop, SSLexplorer uses Java only as client for an SSL tunnel into your network. For viewing, SSLexplorer's options are UltraVNC and RDP.

The RDP Client will only work with Windows XP SP2 or the Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista. But for all other flavors of Windows you can use UltraVNC with the Mirror driver. And it works very well - with UltraVNC and the Mirror driver it's almost like sitting at your PC.

With the RDP Client you get direct connection to your remote drives for file copy. Perhaps the best way to do this is to setup a Network place with SSL Explorer. This allows for secure file transfer without connection to the desktop - a nice feature if you want to collaborate with others but not necessarily share your desktop with them.

You can also print from documents from your home PC to a connected local printer on the remote system - a feature I have not found in any other free offering.

All in all, SSL Explorer an outstanding product, but it needs skilled hands to set it up. If you feel that this does not apply to you then by all means use LogMeIn or MyIVO. Both are rock solid even if they have fewer features.

[1] http://www.logmein.com
[2] http://www.myivo.com
[3] http://www.3sp.com
[4] http://sourceforge.net/projects/sslexplorer/

7.0 MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

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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 Roger Keeny for copy-editing this issue. If you have a need for such services, contact Roger at liddlebigboy@gmail.com.

For convenience North American subscribers 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, 2007

See you next issue. Next month's issue will be published on Thursday the 22nd of November. I'll be taking a recreational break in between and will be out of email contact. Be patient; you'll get a reply when I'm back and have caught up with the backlog :>)

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com