Wednesday, December 31, 2008

About time

Now I'm going to alienate the vast majority of my readers by highlighting a video game. but as the title suggested, its about time there was good sidescroll-platformer game..

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some reminders for everybody

Points of interest:

  • Don’t use internet explorer
  • Back up your files
  • Get/update/change your anti-virus.

Microsoft has announced its own little holiday present to the world, (or at least the world of hackers and credit-card fraud). In security advisory 961051 (do they get a prize when they hit 1 million?), Microsoft stated: “Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Remote Code Execution” This should be read as: third-parties can use internet explorer to get your login/credit card information from websites, even trusted websites. So use a different browser (Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, etc…)

Back-up your files. Especially if you’re working on anything important, I would keep your most updated copy in at least two locations -- two physical locations, not “My Documents” and the Desktop. A good choice in addition to your hard drive would be a flash drive, or other removable storage, or your web-based email.

If you have an Apple computer and think you’re virus-proof, you might want to read bellow. I have things to say about Macs and viruses but it will have to wait until after finals. If you have a PC and Windows, you probably live in perpetual fear, running anti-virus nightly. If you don’t, you should. (This statement is only true if you believe me, in which case you are the kind of computer user who does actually need anti-virus.) There are a plethora of good, free anti-virus programs available online. There are also a host of viruses passing as anti-viruses because they appreciate irony. If you don’t know what you’re doing, stick to this list:

  • AVG-Free – this was, hands down, the best free anti-virus this time last year. Unfortunately while other programs moved forward towards faster less intrusive virus protection, AVG 8.0 went decidedly backwards. It still works however, for the most part. Download at on the right.
  • Avira, the company that makes the scanner software behind Lava-softs Ad-Aware makes an anti-virus called Free-AV found at
  • Avast makes an effective, if slightly bloated free anti-virus found at
  • Finally, if you used AVG free for a while and think that you have moved into the world of responsible computing -- that is, if you know what a high risk activity looks like and don’t need a program that runs automatically -- Clam-Win is the program for you. It doesn’t run in the background but provides a best-in-class on access scan under the GNU free license.
  • If your looking for a paid solution, see my blog for a retraction of all the nasty things I have said about Norton. Norton 2009 is a viable anti-virus (but not any previous version).

Tis the season to be... virus-ed?

Ok, so its full on December. Your online for your holiday shopping, your online to spread Christmas cheer to friends, your online to look up recipes for drinks and dinner, maybe your even online to write blog-posts about viruses. One way or the other, your likely to use your computer, online, alot, and thats likely to be the same machine you keep your pre/per/post-holiday pictures, which you didnt back up yet, did you? So it would be a really bad time to experience the total data loss that a virus can bring, wouldn't it?

I've toted the same line for years. Viruses rarely result in data loss, especialy if you back up regularly (you do back up regularly, don't you?) *listens to the sounds of many feet scampering for external hard drives. Basically if you keep your files backed up virus's have three symptoms: performance hits, constant nagging, and a major inconvenience in the removal aspect. On these three principles I have always said, to many people's surprise, dont bother with anti-virus. The logic went like this: Viruses happen occasionally, and result in those three symptoms. Anti virus happens all the time, and it does the same three things, nags you, slows your computer down, and getting it on and off and updated to your system is a royal pain. So the smart choice was the virus, at least it takes a break.

I'm changing that line. The current generation of anti virus is smart, fast, easy to install, and once its there, you shouldn't notice it unless it really needs you, or you want too.

While im on that note, I feel I should retract statements i've made generaly about norton. Norton was the worst of the last generation of anti virus, but it might well be the best of this generation.
notably: "LiveUpdate is no longer a separate component" (see that Apple, you don't need an entirely seperate program for updates)
"The installation was absolutely painless and AV 2009 was running without so much as a reboot." (oh my goodness, its like linux from... forever ago, no reboot!)
"during general desktop operation the system consumed 10% of resources while Norton accounted for 1%. Overall its demands were quite limited, with the installation being about 47MB and under 8MB of memory used during normal activity" (I'm not going to mock that, I'm going to take my hat off and stand at salute, because that is the what it is to be of good software.)

SO, designate a driver for your parties, and get some anti-virus.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


It's more and more common to see computer applications asking you to allow them to send nonpersonalized data to their creators to "assist future improvement".
I would love to see in the comments who checks these boxes. Personally:

  • I send Valve data all the time because they send me interesting statistics back (thereby enlarging my ego)
  • I send Microsoft data in hopes that someday they will fix all these crash reports.
  • I send google data because I think they actually use it.
  • I hope dearly that the complete lack of software/hardware I have purchased from Adobe, Apple, and Symantec is telling them what I think of thier products.

Mac, meet virus.

Apple has enjoyed a pleasant lack of any real attention in the virus department for years, mostly due to their insignificant market share (historically less than 8% and thats in the united states where their sales are strongest.) Well, as market share rises, it turns out that the virus resistance Mac always bragged about was mostly accidental. Mac support has officialy changed their stance
"Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult. Here are some available antivirus utilities:
  • Intego VirusBarrier X5, available from the Apple Online Store
    License: commercial
  • Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 11 for Macintosh, available from the Apple Online Store
    License: commercial
  • McAfee VirusScan for Mac
    License: commercial
In addition, Mac ads claiming that mac didn't need anti-virus have quitly dissapeared from apple, and possibly at their request, youtube.