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IN THIS PREMIUM ISSUE:
0. EDITORIAL: How Gizmo Protects his PCs
So many subscribers have asked me this question that I figure it's time to answer it publicly:
"Gizmo, could you tell me what security products you use to protect your computer? You must be using the very best packages available and I'd like to use them as well."
Today I'm going to tell you the security products I use but I'm going to start by telling you they are not all that important.
That's because the main way I protect my PC is not with good security products but rather with good security practices.
I regard protecting your PC from infection to be analogous to crossing a busy road unharmed. Stepping onto the road is like logging on to the internet. Crossing safely is like avoiding infection; you don't want to get hit.
Now there are two ways of crossing that road:
The first way is to be very careful about where you cross and to be watchful and aware of the dangers. In other words, make sure you don't get hit.
Another approach is to protect yourself with something like an army tank and cross anywhere, anytime. If you get hit, you rely on the tank to protect you.
Now no sensible person would adopt the latter approach to crossing a road, yet when it comes to computer security that's exactly what most folks do.
"Hey man, I'm using the latest McNortsky Super Security suite and nine other security scanners. I can do anything I want on the net and I'm invincible"
Sorry baby, you are not. You are the guy in the tank crossing the road who's about to get trashed by a big interstate semi.
I know. I've witnessed that accident many times.
If you want real computer security, you need to adopt safe computing practices. Like the rules of road safety we teach our kids, these practices are simple and well known. You can find them here:
Quite sparsely compared to some users.
On all my computers I always surf in a sandbox using Sandboxie and Firefox.
My firewall and AV scanners vary across different computers because I like to get hands-on experience with different products. Of course, each PC has only one firewall and one AV scanner.
The firewalls I'm using at the moment include Comodo, ZoneAlarm Pro and lately, the full version of Online Armor. All have inbuilt HIPS capability.
The only AV scanners I use are the paid version of Avira Personal and NOD32.
I don't have any anti-spyware or anti-trojan programs running, though I do carry out regular on-demand scans using WebRoot SpySweeper and CounterSpy. I never find anything.
For rootkit detection I do regular on-demand scans using GMER, Panda Anti-rootkit and DarkSpy. Again, I never find anything but I still consider it a good practice to do these regular on-demand scans.
Are these products the very best available? I can't say. What I can say is they are among the top contenders. I can also say there are other equally good products, including Kaspersky AV and Spyware Doctor that I'm not using just now.
In fact, I don't want to get into the whole "this is the best security product" game. It's like discussing the best tank to be in when crossing the road.
Folks, instead of playing the "best product" game, put your time and energy into better security practices.
If you do, your computer will end up a lot safer, a lot faster and your wallet will end up a lot fatter as well.
See you next month.
I hate to tell you this but you are missing out on some great freebies. That's because I just don't have the room in this newsletter to tell you about all the great new freeware finds being generated by our new Best-ever Freeware wiki website .
But here's the solution: I've created a brand new RSS feed called "Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware"  that lets you know all these juicy finds as soon as they are discovered. If you like this newsletter, you will love the new feed.
Use the link  below to subscribe to the feed now - it's completely free. And if you don't have an RSS reader, subscribe here  to get the feed delivered by email. Alternatively, install one of the free RSS readers listed here  then subscribe to the feed.
The new feed combines all my old RSS
feeds into one, so if you're already signed up to any
of my feeds or you don't need to subscribe
We need your help to spread the word about the new Best-ever Freeware wiki site . It will only take a few of minutes of your time, and if you feel you've benefited from the site and this newsletter, it's a nice way of returning something to the community.
Here are some things you can do to help:
1.3 Easy Way to Detect
1.8 Learn How to Solve Elusive
Here's a great freebie for all my subscribers: A full commercial copy of Titan Backup, a secure, automated and easy-to-use backup solution for all your photos, music, emails, settings and important documents.
This is the full-featured version, the very same version you pay $40 for on the Titan Website.
There are no catches: no time limits, no inbuilt ads, no spyware, and no feature limitations. You don't even have to provide an email address!
When I was first approached by the developer, Neobyte Solutions, I was a little cautious, but after testing the product on my own PC I have become enthusiastic. This is an excellent commercial backup program and rates in the top group of products in its class. There is no freeware backup program that comes anywhere near this in quality or features.
Here's how to get your free copy:
Download the 15 day trial version of Titan Home from the Neobyte website here .
Install the product and then use the license number located on my website here  to convert the trial version into a full copy.
This offer is time-limited so I suggest you get your copy while you can. Even if you don't have an immediate need, download it for later use.
And no, I don't make a cent out of this or receive any other benefit. All I ask in return is that you don't email me any installation or usage questions. Instead, direct these to Titan.
Task Coach is a full-featured task management package with the ability to create many levels of sub-tasks within tasks, and customizable color coded categories for different tasks.
Tasks can have priorities and due dates set, and you can very easily track the time spent working on any task by simply right clicking it and then selecting either Start or Stop Tracking Effort.
Time tracked in sub-tasks is totaled in the highest level task, and logged in individual sub-tasks. Entire trees of tasks and sub-tasks can be marked as completed or uncompleted.
Detailed descriptions, notes, budget and revenue tracking, file attachments and even date-based reminders are all supported.
While the authors list Task Coach as "Alpha state software" with cautions to backup data frequently, I've found Task Coach to be stable and reliable, as well as very easy to use.
Data is stored in XML format so it can be easily backed up and extracted if necessary. Task Coach will continue to log time even if you shut the program down, so if you need to conserve the memory it uses while working, you can start the application, start tracking time, and shut it down. Start the application again later and stop tracking time and you will have all the detail you need.
This review was prepared by Allan Marillier, the volunteer editor for this software category at our new freeware wiki. Allan's full review can be found here . Freeware (GNU GPL), Windows 2000-Vista, 7.6MB
Firefox users have an easy first choice in the form of a free extension called ReloadEvery . It gives you everything you really need.
For Internet Explorer there's a
rather unimaginatively-named toolbar plug-in called
"Auto Refresher for IE." Once installed, you have to
enable it from View/Toolbars. It's quite an old product
but I found that it worked fine with IE7.
The description on the website sounds very enticing:
"eBoostr is an alternative solution to Vista's ReadyBoost and SuperFetch technologies now available on Windows XP. It speeds up your PC and improves application responsiveness by using flash memory and free RAM as an extra layer of performance-boosting cache for your PC."
I downloaded the product and tried it on my XP based IBM T42 laptop with 1GB of memory. For a flash drive I used a Lexar Lightning with 2GB allocated to the cache. The Lightning is one of the faster flash drives and is well suited to the role.
The setup was simple enough, although creating the cache took a few minutes. Once it's setup the program runs quietly in the background, actively caching commonly used files and memory processes. It's quite active: the LED on the Flash Drive was flickering just about every time I did something on the PC.
The product uses an unusual trial system. The program works full-featured for four hours after a reboot, then disables itself until the next time you boot, at which time you get another four hours.
I guess it was designed to highlight to users the difference in performance with the product enabled compared to disabled.
It's a nice idea except that I didn't notice any real difference in performance!
I ran some timing tests and they did show my PC was running between two and six percent faster. The trouble is that didn't translate into a significant perceived improvement in speed.
After a week I uninstalled it. With the product fully removed my PC performed much the same.
However, my experience may be different to yours. You can download it and try it on your PC and see if it helps. Let me know if it does. Before you purchase it, consider that you might get better results if you simply buy more RAM memory for your PC. Commercial software, $19-$39, Windows 2000, XP, 2003 with USB 2 port, 1MB.
I've had several subscribers write in about third-party visual theme problems after they installed Windows XP SP3. Here's a solution sent in by subscriber James L. Dalton:
"Gizmo, I managed to restore my visual styles after installing SP3 by downloading and installing a different version of uxtheme.dll. The one I used is 6.0.2900.2180, though other versions might work better for some users. The version I used is available here  along with detailed installation instructions. Here's what I did: First I unzipped a copy of the updated .dll on my desktop, booted into safe mode, browsed to the system32 folder where uxtheme.dll resides, and renamed it to uxtheme.dll.old. Then, leaving the folder window small enough that I could see my desktop and the updated uxtheme.dll, I dragged a copy to the system32 folder. When I was asked if I wanted to make the change, I answered yes, dragged the renamed uxtheme.dll.old to the desktop and rebooted. Once I was in Windows again I deleted the old file. On my PC everything is now back as it was before SP3."
As James notes you may have to try other versions of uxtheme.dll if 6.0.2900.2180 doesn't work. There's a good selection here  and a Google search will reveal even more.
Many of these DLLs are provide as RAR file archives rather than ZIP. You can unpack RAR files using the excellent free 7-Zip  unzipper.
In recent times I've had a flurry of email suggesting free online storage sites. I've covered many of these in previous newsletters but here are two new ones:
Nick Carter writes "Gizmo, I've been looking round for a decent media storage site and stumbled across Humyo . I think it rates as good if not better than the MediaMax site you mentioned."
Subscriber Todd Hudspeth has found another. "Gizmo, I've been constantly looking for great freeware or online storage solutions. The new one that I've found to be very capable and of interest is called ADrive, and it allows you 50GB storage for free!"
I checked these out and Humyo offers 30GB of free space of which 25GB can be media files. However, the free service does not encrypt file transfers, has no desktop client or file sharing features and if you fail to login at every 90 days your files will be deleted. Signing up to the $60 paid service removes these restrictions.
ADrive provides 50GB of free storage with file sharing, and the accounts never expire. However, once again there is no desktop client, so you must upload or download via your browser. Additionally, I can see no mention of encryption. There is currently no paid service, though the site states that one is planned. How this will impact free account holders is unclear.
BTW, MediaMax has now morphed into "The Linkup"  and the offering has been changed. Their free account now offers only 25GB and has a very limiting maximum download size of only 10MB.
That's the problem with these free services: there is simply no guarantee of service continuity. That may be OK if you're backing up only non-critical files, but for serious data backup it's unacceptable.
If you want to back up critical files I suggest that you consider a paid online backup service like Mozy or Carbonite, both of which provide an excellent product at a reasonable cost. Personally I use Amazon's S3 service along with JungleDisk for a cost of less than $2 month, and I'm very happy with this solution. For more details, see here .
The Microsoft "Patch Tuesday" for June  resulted in the release of seven security bulletins, three of which covered flaws rated "critical" by Microsoft.
One of the critical-rated patches addressed problems in Internet Explorer; the others addressed problems in Bluetooth and DirectX.
All three patches fix flaws that would allow a remote attacker to take control of a user's PC.
All of 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 require a considerable period of time online to be successfully downloaded. If you are not certain that you have received the updates, then visit the Microsoft Update Service  now.
First up I need to correct and apologize for an error I made in the May Premium issue when, in relation to AVG Version 8 , I said:
"The free version excluded the anti-spyware scanner, rootkit scanner and most of the other goodies added to the commercial V8 product. It also dropped active email protection."
This is incorrect. This is in fact what I should have said:
"The free version excluded the rootkit scanner, active protection against hostile websites and a number of the other goodies added to the commercial V8 product."
That out of the way, let me tell you the latest news:
First, AVG has announced  that they have extended the life of the old V7.5 until the end of 2008 rather than the end of May. That's good news and takes the pressure off AVG Free 7.5 users to make a decision.
Second, I keep on getting reports about AVG V8 bugs and how it's making users' PCs run more slowly.
My advice at this stage is to stay away from V8 until AVG has sorted out the problems. And they will; I recall a similar situation when V7 was introduced, but in the end V7 became a very solid product.
In contrast the reports I've been getting on Avast! V4 have been very positive. Although users report it to be resource-hungrier than AVG 7.5, it appears to be less hungry than AVG 8. And users love the fact that it provides broad-spectrum protection, which includes anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and email protection, in addition to anti-virus. It should definitely be high on your list of free security products to try. Remember though, it's only free for non-commercial use.
Many anti-virus scanner vendors proudly promote the fact that their product has achieved Virus Bulletin Top 100 (VB100) certification. This indicates that the product detected every one of the top 100 malware programs on VB's monthly "currently circulating" list.
I stopped using the VB100 as a guide a year or so ago when a vendor told me he had staff employed full time to ensure that his product passed each month. When queried about the priority he gave to the thousands of currently circulating malware products other than the top 100, it was clear that he was much less interested. This article  flags even more concerns about the VB100 certification.
So today, does VB100 certification for an AV mean anything? Yes, it means it passed the VB 100 test :>)
I don't think anyone has any hard figures, but industry experts seem to think that currently about 70% of all new malware infections are from users visiting compromised or hostile websites. This contrasts with the situation a couple of years back where email was overwhelmingly the main vector for infection.
Most of these infected websites are legitimate sites that have been attacked and compromised by computer criminals, who use flaws in web server software (such as SQL and PHP) to take control of the server and then use the web sites on that server to infect unsuspecting site visitors. It may be hours or days before the site owner realizes there is a problem and fixes it. In the interim thousands of site visitors may have been infected.
Any website you visit is a potential victim, so you have no way of knowing what sites to avoid. You are surfing blind. That's why I recommend that all users surf using a sandbox or with reduced user rights.
And no, you cannot fully rely on your AV scanner or other security products to provide you with adequate protection. They sure can help, but it's been my experience that even the best security products do not perform well against hostile sites using zero day exploits.
4.1 USB Flash Drives at
4.6 Useless Waste of Time
4.8 Free Utility Reveals the
Truth about Your Video card
If you've copied text from a webpage or a PDF file to an email, you've encountered the problem associated with formatting being copied along with the text. The result can look very strange indeed, with broken lines and odd fonts.
You've probably also encountered a similar problem when you copied an email reply into another document. All those crazy >>> characters get copied, along with the broken lines and paragraphs as well.
The good news is that there are several free programs available that allow you to copy the text you want without the unwanted formatting.
One of my favorites is StripMail . It's a little stand-alone program that takes the clipboard contents and converts it into plain text without formatting.
It removes HTML and Word formatting, removes email reply ">" and "|" characters and will optionally remove line feeds so that broken lines are restored into proper paragraphs. At the touch of a button the stripped text is restored to the clipboard, ready for pasting into your document.
It works like a charm. I use it daily and it's one of the most useful utilities on my PC.
The only downside of StripMail is that you have to run the program each time you want to clean some text. I overcome this by assigning a hotkey to run StripMail to automatically strip the clipboard contents ready for pasting. Removing formatting is then as simple as copying the text, hitting the hotkey and pasting.
You can create the hotkey (as I did) by using the freeware program AutoHotkey , but you can also do it in Windows by using a shortcut that's linked to a hotkey. Here's how:
First download the StripMail program . Then use Explorer to navigate to your C:\Program files folder. In that folder create a new folder called StripMail by right mouse clicking and selecting Create/New folder. Once the folder is created, move the StripMail program stripmail.exe you downloaded into that folder.
Now open Notepad or some other plain text editor and type in the following line:
stripmail.exe -d -x
Then save the one-line file as stripmail.bat in c:\Program files\StripMail.
What we have just created is a batch file that, when run, will open StripMail, clean the contents of the clipboard and then exit the program. Now we have to create a hotkey linked to this batch file so that it runs whenever the hotkey is pressed.
While in the c:\Program files\StripMail folder, right click your mouse and select Create/New shortcut. In the wizard browse to c:\Program files\Stripmail\stripmail.bat, highlight the file and click OK. In the next screen call the shortcut StripMail. Press OK and exit the wizard.
Now right click on the shortcut icon and select Properties. Click in the Shortcut key box and then press whatever key combination you want to use as a hotkey. I use F10 but you can use whatever keys you like as long as it doesn't conflict with another keyboard shortcut combination you regularly use. Click OK and you are finished.
Now the next time you want to copy text from an email or website, just copy the text as normal, hit F10 or whatever shortcut you used, and paste. Voila, the unwanted formatting has been removed.
If all that sounds too daunting for you, try the program called PureText . It's simpler to setup than StripMail, because you can create your hotkey from within the program and the same hotkey will perform an automatic paste.
On the downside, it only removes formatting and will not remove email ">>" characters or hard line breaks.
Yet another option is to use a web service. I can recommend two sites:  and . Both are free.
Finally, here's a way you can remove unwanted formatting from text with Microsoft Word. Highlight the text and press Ctrl + Spacebar. This will automatically convert what's highlighted to plain text formatting. It won't remove those pesky email ">>" characters though. You could use Word Search and Replace but StripMail is probably a better option.
Subscriber Joel Futch is one of several subscribers who have written to me in glowing terms about the remote access program TeamViewer. Here's what Joe said:
"Gizmo, I really wanted to make sure you knew about TeamViewer. This free service has proved to be great for remote support and file transfer; the best I have found in fact.
I have used it to remote into many a relative's machine across the country to assist with issues, and it auto bypasses any firewalls that might block, once they are logged into the free web based service. I usually send a link to the download page, via email, and walk them through the steps to get the program installed. It has proven a simple enough task to explain even to extremely technically challenged people.
You can also log into the service from a home or business computer in the morning, write down your password, and then access that machine later from another location using the information. Not the greatest for this purpose, but good for the average user who doesn't know much about port forwarding etc, and does not want to have to pay for this sort of service. Also good for transferring large files from one computer to the next."
This is a fine product that performed well when I tested it. I particularly liked the fact that it's based on the same http protocol used by web browsers, so it should present few problems when installed behind routers and firewalls. I also liked the fact that it uses a safe SSL connection, which means your connection is encrypted end to end. On the downside, it's only free for non- commercial use. Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.29MB.
Users often have a need to identify the differences between two Microsoft Word documents. This can be easily done within Word itself, provided that the documents are just different versions and have been written with the Word "Track changes" feature enabled. If this is not the case, then you need a third party program to do the job.
There are many free programs that can compare different files and flag changes, but almost all of these work only with plain text files and can't handle the complex structure of .doc files. You need a special program that's specifically designed to compare Word document files.
There are plenty of commercial programs that will do the job, some of which cost hundreds of dollars, but I've never seen a decent free program. Until now, that is.
Subscriber Scott Youngman recently wrote in to tell me about a free Word comparison program called CSDiff. I was initially skeptical, but after fully testing the product I've changed my mind. This is a most impressive free product that does the job as well as many commercial utilities.
Usage is simple: just nominate the two Word files to be compared and hit the OK button. CSDiff then starts up Word and displays a third document with all additions, deletions and format changes clearly shown using the usual Word "Track changes" notation. For example, additions are shown in red type while deletions are shown in blue overwritten by strike-out characters. You can then edit this document and save the changes to a new file.
Options include the ability to do the comparison by letter, by word or by line, as well as various ways of handling whitespace. You can have line numbers if you wish and you also have the option of showing only changed lines.
As a bonus, CSDiff can also compare two folders rather than two documents.
All up, there is everything here you need to compare Word documents. And it's free.
Freeware, All Windows Versions but
needs Microsoft Word, 1.34MB
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