Sunday, November 15, 2009

OOoooooo (said in a spooky way) What are the two words Bill Gates is afraid of?

Asks the Advertisement that wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. The answer to that question is cloud computing. Now whether or not Bill is afraid is not of any concern to me, who cares. It's not like Bill is not going to be a billionaire tomorrow.

Anyway, cloud computing in a nut shell is using applications that are somewhere on the internet (the cloud) instead of running the same type of application on your home or business computer. I'm writing this article using blogger's software that is being run in my web browser. I could be doing the same thing on a MAC, or with a computer running Linux, this software doesn't care what my operating system is. The article is going to be saved on a server owned by google. I don't need to save anything on my personal computer.

Other "cloud computing" programs that I and many of you use are services like Yahoo mail or Gmail; Google docs is a whole office suite online. Documents can be shared and collaborated on by anyone who has prilages to do so. The last company I worked at used Google docs to share word processing and spreadsheet documents with employees and with customers. We were all able to update the documents collaboratively. And the cost was nothing.

So how could all of this theoretically scare Bill Gates? Well, when you consider that Windows costs hundreds of dollars, and Microsoft Office costs hundreds of dollars just on one PC, then you could imagine how much money a large company could save by simply not buying Microsoft products. Using online free products along with an operating system like Linux could save a company millions.

In my opinion Google has made a great effort to be at the forefront of cloud computing. This week I needed to share some very old documents with my extended family, I figured I needed a free an easy web site. Sure enough Google had that, Google sites provided me a free and easy way to whip out a web site so I could post my files so my extended family could have access to scanned in photos I wanted to share.

I have used Yahoo mail for over 10 years and it's always come through for me, I never use the email provided by my internet supplier because I never know if they will irritate me and I will move on. I have had several internet suppliers but my email is always there for me supplied by Yahoo. I also use my Yahoo calendar to keep me informed about birthdays and other important events. I personally prefer using Yahoo's email over Gmail but Gmail has something that Yahoo doesn't have for free and that's the ability to forward messages. I have several Gmail accounts and have them forward messages to my Yahoo email account.

Next time you go to Google click on More, then even more and you will be surprised at the cloud computing options being offered to you. Yahoo is my home page because I can check my Yahoo mail, Gmail, and Facebook accounts at a glace. All cloud computing applications. Oh and I use Wikipedia a lot for links in my articles another fine cloud computing effort.

Happy computing and I'll see you on the cloud!


Monday, November 2, 2009

How to protect your computer from Malware for free

Yes, that’s right you don’t have to spend any money at all to protect your computer from viruses, malware, Trojans, and other assorted bad guys. Here is how:

First off if you’re running the Linux OS of any kind then you don’t need any virus protection software. I don’t want to go into great detail about Linux security, all you really need to know is that permissions on Linux make it impossible for viruses or Trojans to execute without your permission.

Today, the number of viruses actively attacking OSX users is about none.
However, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever or that you won’t be passing a windows virus on to your mom in an email attachment. ClamXav is a free virus checker for Mac OS X.

Microsoft designed Windows to enable outsiders to execute software on your system. Microsoft justifies this by saying it enriches the user experience if a Web site can do "cool" things on your desktop.  In reality the only people being enriched are the companies selling you security products for your Windows based computer.
Viruses, Trojans, and general malware in Windows are usually spread by email clients, browsers, or Instant Messages. These programs will accept these nasties from other computers, and then place them on your system. The malware authors then execute the programs to do their bidding without asking for your permission.
Now how do we go about protecting our Windows based machines for free?

Update your browser:
  • First step is to make sure that your browser is updated. Browsers security is a cat and mouse game so check to make sure you are updated. In Firefox this is done by clicking help and then clicking update in top menu of the browser.

Next Firewalls:
  • What is a firewall? A firewall is a part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting authorized communications.
  • Do you need a firewall? Yes, but you may already have one installed. If you have a router connected to the internet connection coming into your house it probably has a built in firewall. Check your documentation. If that is the case then you are good to go.
    • If not and you have Windows XP or newer then simply turn on the built in firewall. Windows with complain to you if it isn't turned on and help you. It will also complain to you even if you have a firewall in your router, I just ignore the complaint.
    • If you have Windows installed that is older than XP or if you want to try a different firewall then you will need to download a free firewall program. Here are a couple of them: Comodo or Outpost 

    Next Antivirus software:

    My favorite is Avast Antivirus software. Avast will provides a great barrier against nasties coming into your computer. I love it when you end up at some web site that tries to upload malware to you, it pops up a big warning and allows you to abort the connection. It provides real time scanning and free updates.
    Avira is also a very good choice, I'm running it on my Windows 2000 machine. The only thing that is a little annoying is a page that pops up occasionally trying to get you to upgrade to their pay version. 

    Next: Anti-malware software:

    So you have a firewall and anti-virus software running why would you need anything else? Well sometimes tracking cookies are sending information to unscrupulous people or a new trojan horse made it past the antivirus program. It's always good to have a second opinion anyway. Here are two very good free programs than you can use to do a scan anytime you wish: 

    OK, there you go all the free software you need to protect your computer from bad guys. I only use free software for my security and am very happy with the results.