Thursday, January 31, 2008

Windows Vista: Disabling Security Center Notification

Depending on your Windows Vista security software configuration, you might have the Security Center icon displayed in the notification area warning you it has found a problem with your software. If you do have a problem you should fix it, although if you really don't then you might want to disable this notification from being displayed.

To disable this feature, follow the instructions below:
  • From the Start menu open the Control Panel folder
  • Open the Security Center applet
  • In the Tasks pane on the left, click the link that says 'Change the way the Security Center alerts me'
  • In the dialog box, press the 'Don't notify me and don't display the icon (not recommended)' button.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Windows Vista: Mobility Center

If you use a Windows Vista based laptop computer, you might want to check out the Mobility Center. This control panel gives you easy access to information and configuration options about your laptop. For example, you can quickly enable or disable an external monitor, wireless adapter, check your battery level, and much more.

To access the Mobility Center open the control panels folder under the Start menu, then look for 'Windows Mobility Center', or my favorite trick is just to press the Windows key+X.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Windows Vista: Disabling the Delete Confirmation

Some people don't like the delete confirmation dialog that is displayed every time you delete a file on your computer. If you want to turn off this confirmation dialog, it takes a few seconds.

  • Follow the instructions below:
  • Press the Windows key + D (this will show your computer's desktop)
  • Right-click the Recycle Bin, and select Properties.
  • In the Properties dialog, uncheck 'Display delete confirmation dialog' checkbox.
  • Press the OK button.
To re-enable this feature only requires rechecking the 'Display delete confirmation dialog' checkbox.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Security: Panda's TotalScan

As I stated in my previous post about NanoScan it can only report malware infections it finds in your computer's memory. So if your computer is infected with malware, then you have to use something more sophisticated. So if NanoScan finds a problem, it will automatically direct you to TotalScan (its free, but requires registration).

TotalScan can detect more malware then NanoScan, plus it can remove what it finds. TotalScan has two options, Quick scan which only takes a few minutes to run and Full scan which can take more then an hour depending on the amount of files on your system.

So for those times you need to run deeper scans of your system, I would suggest that you check out TotalScan. Like NanoScan it runs in either browser Firefox or Internet Explorer. It also does take a few minutes for the signatures to download (depending on the speed of your connection).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Security: Panda's NanoScan

Sometimes you need a second opinion when it comes to the subject malware (i.e.: virus, worms, spyware, etc.). Although, first and foremost you should be running a real-time malware scanner with up-to-date signatures. Then on those occasions where you think something maybe wrong, then you should use an alternate tool to make sure that your current tools are not missing something.

Until recently I have not found an online malware scanner that I like, until I came across Panda's NanoScan. This is a browser based utility, so it requires a plug-in for Firefox and an ActiveX control for Internet Explorer.

This scanner doesn't do a deep scan of your system, it only checks the active processes against a database of known malware. It also doesn't remove any malware, it just alerts to you to their presence.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Windows Vista: Taking Ownership of a Folder

In Windows Vista even with administrator rights, you're not automatically granted access to all folders. This is a security feature. In order to get access to that file or folder you need to take ownership of it.
  • Open the Windows Explorer, and navigate to the file or folder that you want to take over the ownership on.
  • Right-click it, and select Properties
  • Click on the Security tab.
  • Press the Advanced button.
  • Click the Owner tab.
  • Press the Edit button.
  • Select the user account you want to grant ownership rights.
  • Press the OK button.
A pop-up dialog will alert you that you've taken ownership of the object, press the OK button to continue. You should now be able to access the file or folder.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Networking: OpenDNS

If you have a laptop and use any of the thousands of WiFi hotspots that are available, you could be opening yourself up to a security risk that you might not be aware of. You have no guarantee that the WiFi hotspot network's DNS information has not been compromised.

For those who don't know what DNS is, its a service that translates domain names (i.e.: BLOGGER.COM) into the IP address (i.e.: that is used for directing your browser to the right destination. This is only a real quick introduction to the technology if you want more information, check out this article from Wikipedia.

It's possible for someone to point a wireless router's DNS anywhere they want. For example, someone can changed the DNS servers to ones will take you rogue web sites that look like the legitimate one to steal your personal information. Note: This type of attack can be very difficult to detect.

By making a service such as OpenDNS (a free DNS service) your main DNS provider, you can help protect yourself while your roaming with your laptop. What you do, is leave your DHCP service running to get an IP address automatically assigned to you when you join a hotspot's network, but you can override the DNS information it wants to assign to you and use OpenDNS instead.

Here are the instructions you will need to setup your local computer, our home router. OpenDNS also offers many other features like parental controls, shortcuts and more.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Windows Vista: Lock Your Computer Quickly

Do you want lock your computer quickly, instead of pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL? There are two tricks you can use, the first and easiest is to press the Windows key + L. You can also create a shortcut on your desktop (or in the Quick Launch area):
  • Right-click the desktop, select New, and then Shortcut.
  • The Create Shortcut Wizard opens. In the text box, type the following: "rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation" (note: the word 'LockWorkStation' is case sensitive), press the Next button.
  • Enter a name for the shortcut, such as "Lock Workstation" or choose any other name you like, then press the Finish button.
  • I would highly recommend that you drag the shortcut into the Quick Launch area if its enabled. (note: you may need to resize this area it if there are too many icons)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

101 Free Games 2007 - The Best Free Games on the Web! reports: "It's not hard to find free games on the Internet -- but it's damn near impossible to sift through the terabytes of crap to find good ones. That's where the editors of Games for Windows: The Official Magazine come in: We've tracked down another 101 absolutely, positively, no-strings-attached free games that are actually worth playing, grouped them into handy categories, and put most of 'em up on There's something here for everyone, from RPGs to real-time strategy to Asteroids Flash games, though we have to confess up front: There are actually more than 101 free games here. So no complaining that you're not getting your money's worth."


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Software: (formerly Democracy Player)

Miro is the new name of a software product formerly known as the Democracy Player, which has been around for a little while. Miro allows you to download and manage video podcasts and other content from thousands of different channels on several different subjects (currently 3300+, and growing).

Here is a video that provides a brief introduction to the software:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Microsoft Updates Windows Home Server with Power Pack 1

PC Magazine reports: "Windows Home Server will get the first upgrade since it was released this past November, in the form of Power Pack 1, which Microsoft showed here at CES 2008. Enhancements include support for PCs running 64-bit Windows Vista x64, a new backup option, and new remote access options. Power consumption will also be improved by Power Pack 1, and support for Japanese and Chinese languages will be added."

If you're a Windows Home Server owner then you might want to download this software when it becomes available. Also for more information and screen shots about the product, you can also check out the Windows Home Server blog.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Windows Home Server Add-ins

If you own a Windows Home Server (WHS), then you might want to check out this site. It contains a list community add-ins for the server.

Some of the add-ins include:
  • DHCP for Windows Home Server: Allows you to control DHCP leases from with the WHS console
  • Home Base: Allows you to download files from your WHS with a Windows Mobile powered device.
  • Recorded TV Manager: Automatically moves or copies shows from a Media Center to your WHS.
  • Check out the site for more information.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stay At Home Servers

Microsoft created a pretty funny site to raise awareness of the benefits of the Windows Home Server, or the “stay-at-home servers” as it is referred to. This is not a typical web site from Microsoft, but it is very well done.

The videos are very funny, and there is even a children’s book titled “Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House?” So, if you want to learn more about the Windows Home Server, check out the site.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Windows Vista: Changing the Product Key

The Windows Vista installation disk contains all the various editions of Vista that are available (i.e.: Home Basic and Premium, Business, Ultimate, etc.). The product key you entered during the installation process determines which product gets installed during the installation process.

If you decide later to upgrade your version of Vista (i.e. from Home Basic to Home Premium), you will need to change your product key. Or, if you're having a problem with the product key you enter and you have to change it. All you need to do is follow the instructions below:
  • Open the Control Panel folder under the Start menu.
  • Double-click the System applet.
  • Click the 'Change Product Key' link in the 'Windows activation' section.
  • Then follow the instructions in the Windows Activation dialog that is displayed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Windows Vista: Live File System

If you use Windows Vista and have a CD-RW or DVD-RW burner, there is a cool new feature called 'Live File System'. The Live File System is a new optical disc format that allows you to use CD-RWs or DVD-RWs disks like any other type of digital recordable media.

Let me elaborate, generally once you record a file on optical media it will exist there until you reformat the disk (if you're using recordable optical media). The Live File System allows you to delete, write and change files without having to reformat the media every time. This is very similar to your hard drive, USB drive, or any other type of digital storage.

Note: To use this technology you need a CD-RW or DVD-RW recordable disks, and burner that supports reading and writing this media. This feature will not work on CD-R or DVD-R disks.

By default, Vista will want to format the you optical media using the Live File System. Although there is a down side to this format, it's only readable by Windows Vista and XP.

When you eject the disk when you're doing using it, it might take a short time for it to eject. This is because the OS has close the session on the disk it will be unreadable when you try to use it again.

Formating new media with the Live File System
  • Put a blank disc in the optical drive.
  • Wait for the AutoPlay dialog to display.
  • Select 'Burn files to disc'.
  • Change the disk name then press the Next button.

Monday, January 07, 2008

VoIP Services (Making Free or Cheap Calls)

Landline and pay telephones have been dying a slow death since the popularization of cell phones and VoIP (Voice of IP) services. You probably have heard the term VoIP, and may know what it means but for those who don't. All it is, is using your computer and your Internet connection to make a phone call either to another computer or to a landline telephone.

Most VoIP services require that you have a broadband connection, and a computer (with software) or special hardware. Some of the the hardware based solutions don't even require a computer, and one doesn't even require a broadband connection. Although the software based solutions generally require a headphone with a mike, and the hardware based solutions require a landline telephone.

Hopefully I have not confused you with the my brief tutorial above, but there are still a few caveats that I must point out. The software based VoIP solutions generally offer computer to computer chatting for free. Although, if you wan to call a landline, there is a charge. If you call a mobile phone in another country its generally pretty expensive. Also several of the VoIP providers do provide free calling in US and Canada, but there is generally some service charge associate with it.

The list below is not complete, but it could provide you with solution that will work for you. I definitely encourage you to look at all your options. Also, I am not endorsing any of the service providers listed below.

Hardware Based
  • MagicJack - Charges $20 per year for unlimited calls from anywhere in the world to phones in the U.S. or Canada. To use this service, you need a $20 device that plugs into your computer's USB port, a regular telephone that you plug into the MagicJack and a broadband connection.
  • Vonage - One of the grand daddies of the consumer based VoIP service providers. They tend to be more expensive then the other providers, but is still worthwhile checking out (note: Vonage has been going through some legal trouble lately)
Software Based
  • Skype - Requires that you install software on your computer, and allows you to make calls from computer to computer for free, and from computer to a landline phone at a reduced rates.
  • VoipCheap - VoIP service provider similar to Skype. Requires that you install software on your computer, and allows you to make calls from computer to computer for free, and from computer to a landline phone at a reduced rates.
  • Vyke - VoIP service provider similar to Skype. Requires that you install software on your computer, and allows you to make calls from computer to computer for free, and from computer to a landline phone at a reduced rates.
  • Jajah - Doesn't require any special hardware or software. All you have to do is go to a web site and enter a phone number for where you want to receive the call (such as your cell phone, or phone in your house), and the number you want to call.
  • ChatterBug - Doesn't require a computer, or a broadband connection, but does require you to have phone service to your residence or business. Allows you to make calls to anywhere in the US or Canada for $9.95 per month.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Firefox 3 Beta Boosts Usability, Security

eWeek: "When you first install and launch the beta of Firefox 3, the initial impression (especially for those who remember some of the earlier promises of a revamped user interface and increased Web 2.0 integration) can be a little disappointing, since it doesn't look much different from the current version of Firefox."

More reviews of Firefox 3. Make sure to check out the slide show.