Categories
Noteworthy

Technews for week 17

Here in Norway weeks starts on Monday and we use week numbers. Below is the most interesting technews for week 17.

Google rebranded Docs to Drive to compete with Dropbox. By installing the app in Windows, Mac, Android or iOS (coming soon they say), your files will be synced across devices and always be up to date. You get 5GB for free and at the same time Google bumped the Gmail storage to 10GB (and counting).

Microsoft also wants to compete with Dropbox, so they scaled back SkyDrive from 25GB to 7GB and have also released apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Windows Phone. If you’re fast, you can keep those 25GB. As with the others, Microsoft too offers paid upgrades.

Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows has a nice comparison of the different online storage/collaboration/sync services.

Microsoft also released version 4.0(.1526.0) of their antimalware program (includes protection against virus, spyware and other malicous software) for Windows XP, Vista and 7. Microsoft Security Essentials is free for personal use (and small businesses for up to 10 PCs).

Mozilla released Firefox 12 this week and follows Google Chrome with their new auto update service. For Firefox to be updated in the background without any user consent, installing a service is a must. You can opt out of if you prefer to be notified (like previous versions).

I’m not a big gamer, but I’ve really enjoyed the Uncharted series from Naughty Dog (The second installment being my favorite of the three.) Now you can relive Nathan Drake’s adventures as a fan has made the three games into separate “movies” on YouTube.

Categories
Noteworthy

Technews for week 9

Here in Norway weeks starts on Monday and we use week numbers. Below is the most interesting technews for week 9.

This week saw the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona and a lot of new phones got shown (but not yet available for sale).

Sony Ericsson released the little brother and sister to the Xperia S: Xperia P and Xperia U. The Xperia S was shown at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas back in January and went on sale this week in Barcelona.

HTC showed its new One Series: The One X, One S and One V.

LG, ZTE, Huawei also showed new phones (amongst others).

Microsoft made Windows 8 Consumer Preview available for download.

Spotify got updated and can now do crossfade and finally gapless playback.

Square Enix finally released Final Fantasy Tactics for the iPad. I’ve spent many hours of my life playing the original on the PlayStation, and will now spend even more on my iPad 2.

Categories
Recommended Software

Antivirus: Microsoft Security Essentials

Remember: Antivirus is not a replacement for common sence! Be smart when using the Internet. Don’t click on links from unkown (and sometimes even known) sources in e-mails, messengers or on social sites (i.e. Facebook and Twitter). Close popup windows with the red cross at the upper right, as the buttons in the image might install unwanted software without you knowing.

Only have one antivirus installed, or the programs might conflict and slow down your computer. 

Microsoft has it’s own free antimalware solution, called Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE for short). When installed, it disables Windows Defender (in Vista) as MSE takes over this job. MSE is fast to install, easy to use, light on resources and doesn’t nag about upgrading to a paid version. It sits patiently in the background updating it’s definition files and alerts you if it finds anything suspicious. If you’re looking for the best free solution, this is my recommendation.

 

Windows 8 comes with MSE built in, but with the name Windows Defender (surely to confuse it customers).

MSE can be downloaded directly from Microsoft. Since MSE isn’t supported in all countries, you might have to download it from FileHippo.

Categories
Microsoft Recommended Services Software Software Update Tips and Tricks Websites Windows

How to keep your system (Windows/software/drivers) up-to-date

I think it’s safe to say that almost all computers used in homes today are connected to the Internet and have a decent amount of programs installed. And that makes keeping your computer up-to-date an important task. Why? Because each day a new security hole, exploit or other errors are found and being fixed. Or a program can get new features or bugfixes.

Fortunately, Windows and other popular software can be set up to update itself. E.g. Windows 7 can be set up to run Windows Update and install important and critically updates automatically.

Also check out my post WSUS Offline Update – Update Windows without Internet.

Another example is Mozilla Firefox, a popular browser, that once in a while pops up a window asking you to update it. Google has taken it a step longer with their browser Chrome, just updating it in the background without user intervention. Talking about browsers, plugins are just as important to update. Flash and Java are two of the most used plugins and therefore prone to attacks. You don’t want these to be out-of-date, so do a plugin check at Mozilla. Google has actually integrated Flash directly in Chrome, so it gets updated automatically when the browser gets updated.

Some software doesn’t update automatically, but tells you when an update is available. And some software doesn’t notify you at all, making you doing the dirty work. Looking for updates, downloading and updating each of these can be difficult and tedious. That’s were software updaters come in handy!

My favorite is FileHippo Update Checker. This little utility can be installed as a regular program, notifying you when updates for your installed programs are available. I find it rather “noisy”, so I prefer the standalone (portable) version. Just run the program, it does a scan and presents you with a webpage with direct downloads.

If you want a more detailed summary, you might want to try out Secunia Personal Software Inspector. It does a more thorough scan, and is supposed to support automatic updating of installed programs.

More screenshots.

Both programs mentioned above are discussed together with others at Gizmo’s Freeware.

That covers Windows and software, but what about drivers? Drivers are an important part of a working computer. An easy explanation of a driver, is software that makes Windows “talk” to you hardware. In the Windows XP era, finding the right driver and updating it was hard. Since Windows Vista, Microsoft has done a great job with drivers, including them directly on the setup DVD and offering them through Windows Update. I you choose the recommended settings during Windows 7 setup, most (if not all) of your hardware will be recognized and drivers gets installed automatically. Either during setup or afterwards through Windows Update.

This solution requires a working Internet connection of course, which depends on your network card getting installed during setup. As a safety net, be sure to download its driver from your computer or motherboard manufacturer beforehand.

If you want a program to do all the work, I can recommend Driver Magician. I got mine for free via Giveaway of the Day. They have given this away the last three years.

A free alternative is DriverEasy. A combined web-service and software is the French site My-Config.com.

If you’re an enthusiast like me, you always want the latest software and drivers, even if they’re beta (unfinished, made available for testing). Computer manufacturers seem to forget about your hardware as soon as they release a newer system. That’s why I recommend you go straight to the source. E.g. if you have an Intel system, download your chipset and SATA drivers from Intel’s website. Likewise for AMD systems. If you have a graphics card from nVidia or ATI/AMD, you’ll usually get a better experience using their drivers. You will often lose customization done by your computer manufacturer, but personally I think that’s a small price to pay. Until recently, laptop users weren’t allowed to use the drivers released directly from AMD or nVidia. That’s why sites like Laptop Video 2 Go and Omega Drivers exists.

Windows Vista introduced a new driver model, which continues with Windows 7. In Windows XP, you have to manually specify the exact folder which contains the (updated) driver. In Vista/7, you can put all your drivers in one folder, and just point to it. The operating system will take care of the rest, choosing the best (most compatible) driver and install it for you. But what if you can’t find a suitable driver? What if you don’t know what that “unknown hardware” is in Device Manager?

Thats were Unknown Device Identifier steps in. It will help you identify the hardware, making it easier to find a driver.

As I mentioned, Windows XP doesn’t make it easy to update drivers. And being over ten years old, it seldom has drivers included for current hardware. As always, Internet has a solution. DriverPacks.net is a project trying to gather most used drivers in one place. Drivers are packed together in compressed files, sorted in categories like chipset, sound, graphics e.t.c. The project started out as a way to integrate drivers into the Windows XP setup. Newer SATA hard drives won’t be recognized by Windows XP setup and a driver needs to be loaded from a floppy. The floppy has been dead for years, hence integrating drivers. By downloading and running DriverPacks BASE, you can integrate all the driverpacks into Windows XP with the push of a few buttons! DP BASE can download/update driverpacks, integrate them into Windows XP setup or make a Standalone Disc which you can use to update drivers on an existing installation.

DriverPacks.net contains a list for Vista (can be used for Windows 7 also due to same driver model). What I usually do, is to download the packs, unzip them (7-zip is a good alternative) and then use Device Manager to update my components. You do this by right-clicking a device in the list and choose Update Driver Software…, next Browse my computer for driver software and lastly point it to the correct folder. Be sure to check the box that includes subfolders.