Archive for ‘Tips & Tricks’

December 28, 2011

Microsoft Free Antivirus May Save Your Day (or at least get you a free beer)

I’ve had to remove a lot of fake antivirus software lately. Microsoft has made my life incredibly easy now, thanks to the beta version of their new Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper (MSSSS) software. You download it (link below) on a CLEAN computer – shame on you if you create the boot media on the infected machine – and it walks you through the process of creating a bootable CD, DVD, USB thumb drive, or just creating an ISO file you can use anytime. The latest virus definitions are downloaded during the process, so you’re not instantly out of date, and are updated automatically if you run the install wizard again.

So, even if you’re not stuck with a virus, you probably know someone who is. Trade your few minutes of scanning for a night out, all from some free software from a company that lately is getting back its reputation for writing some darn good stuff.

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Now, to be clear, this does not replace the need for full antivirus software being installed on a machine. Antivirus / antimalware software is good for keeping your system safe, no matter what OS you’re running. If you don’t want to pay for antivirus, which you generally shouldn’t have to, try the following:

If you’re running Windows XP or higher – and really, you should be on Windows 7 if you’re running Windows – turn on Data Execution Prevention for all programs and services. Right click Computer, Select Properties, then Advanced System Settings, then click Settings under Performance, then select the second option for All Programs and Services, as shown in the diagram below.

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And, if you haven’t done so already, make sure your Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, and Apple QuickTime (if installed) are fully up to date. It’s often vulnerabilities in these non-Microsoft products that get you infected, not vulnerabilities in Windows itself.

Link: http://connect.microsoft.com/systemsweeper

December 5, 2011

Why Aren’t You Syncing Your Stuff through the Cloud?

This weekend I had a rude awakening about backups. You see, I’m one of the rare folks who backs up every single night. My favorite laptop, an HP DM1Z, had a nice, pricey 240 GB SSD in it. The SSD took a dive. No worries, thought I – I have a backup! I use a Microsoft Windows Home Server from HP, and dutifully boot up my restore CD, only to find… I had only backed up the recovery partition. “***t,” thought I! Talk about a bonehead mistake – I never actually verified the stuff I wanted backed up was actually being backed up… I just assumed as much. So all was lost, and you feel really bad for me now, right?

Well, you shouldn’t. Yes, I lost all my original Israel photos and those I took in Japan this year. Yes, I lost my Kindle Fire review notes, and a few serial numbers. But you know what? That cloud thing is awesome. Here’s what I have:

· Microsoft Windows Live Mesh – All my music, important files, and so forth – even my Outlook signatures! – are automatically synced between all my PCs. All I did was sign on and all my files started rushing back to my laptop, ready to use. Note there are no storage limits as long as you’re syncing between PCs. Note that Live Mesh is only one of many great components of Windows Live Essentials.

· Firefox Sync – All my bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, were back on my machine in under an hour. Sync was included in FireFox starting at version 6.

· Windows Live SkyDrive – All the photos I had uploaded were all stored safely online. Yes, I lost the ones I didn’t send, and the online versions aren’t as high resolution, but hey, at least they’re not gone forever. Anyway, I can add my Photos to Live Mesh and not worry again!

· Facebook – Same thing for my photos again, cool. Still crappy Facebook quality, but then again, at least they’re there.

· Google Plus Instant Upload for Android – I may not use the service, but I sure do like the Android app’s feature where all phone images are automatically uploaded to a private album online. Sure, it doesn’t directly relate to this story, but should I lose my phone, I’ll be glad.

So, other than keeping my password as secure as possible, and hoping there’s no big breach of all those services (ahem, DropBox?), all my data is safely backed up in the cloud and on my other computers, automatically, for free. Talk about peace of mind. Can you imagine how this would have turned out ten years ago? You now have no excuse not to be backing up.

Thank you, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, for giving us all free software and services that make our lives easier. I may even click an ad today.

P.S. I still love my Windows Home Server, and you should, too. It’s awesome how it backs up every one of my computers automatically every night. Just make sure you select the right drives to back up Smile