Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another browser to check out...

Just days after writing about the Minefield browser, there is another browser launched that deserves a look. Apple released Safari 4 Beta! Does any one launch a finished product any more? :-) Apple claims that Safari is the fastest browser. It is pretty fast and sleek. And its available on OS X and Windows both.

I didn't like the Safari browser on windows before but this release is pretty sleek. I downloaded it on windows and showed it to a co-worker. He asked - "is it chrome?" :) I am not saying anything more.

When you launch Safari, the blank screen comes up with the Top Sites you visit are presented in a nice galary kinda display. And Apple claims 150 features in Safari. Now if only I can flip the windows in my laptop's screen....

I am still playing around with it. It renders unicode just fine on windows. I vaguely remember that being a problem in the previous round. And I also just remembered that I am still supposed to be playing with Minefield...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to keep your computer malware free...

People used to call me rarely when their PCs were infected before. In the past few weeks, that rate has alarmingly increased. One of my friends, who is very careful, was infected with tidserv trojan and ended up reinstalling the OS. Two friends are still battling some virus/trojan problem that left them without the internet.

There are a few steps you can do to stay free of malware. Let's go thru them one by one.

1.  Don't use Windows!

Switch to some linux variant - Ubuntu is very pleasant and easy to use  - trust me. Or you can get a Mac and live happily in the OS X land. You can try Ubuntu without installing. If you think this is an extreme step, skip this and head to #2 below. You brave soul, just head over to Ubuntu site and download their desktop version.

You can download the disk image, burn it in a CD - blank CD if I might add, pop it in the machine, well - its already there as you just made it - reboot and try without install option. You have browser, open office and a bunch of games right off the CD and you can also get on the net with it.  You know what's cool? If you have room in your disk - say 5 to 10 10GB, you can install Ubuntu on the same machine. At boot time, you can decide which OS to boot into.  To do this, start windows, pop in the Ubuntu CD and follow the instructions to install. It's pretty easy.  The Wubi installer is awesome! If you are scared to try it, ask your 8 year old to do it. May be Ubuntu guys should run a 'cave man' commercial on this :-)

So you don't have anything to lose. You can try and work with Ubuntu. And if you have  some thing that works only in windows - old windows game, some windows software that you can't live without - boot into windows only to use them and get back to the Ubuntu Land.

2. Secure your computer

So you want to stay in Windows land. There are a few steps you can follow listed in this site. Spend a few minutes and go over the steps.

How To Secure your Computer or Network - A Step by Step Approach

The above site has been very good. Please go over the 4 steps and 8 steps and see which suits you. I use the following steps that have served me well.

3. Use non-IE  browsers

Screw political correctness. Use Mozilla's Firefox! Period. If a site doesn't work in Firefox, give it a miss :-)  If your bank or some work related site works only in IE, use the IE tab extension of Firefox and configure them to use IE engine from within firefox. So you can always use Firefox and those sites alone will use the IE rendering engine.

4. Block unwanted parasites with a hosts file

Do you get the joke in 'There is no place like'? :-) In a nutshell, thats what this site does. This site is so popular, it comes up as top one or second when you google for 'hosts file'. 
The site lists all sites that can potentially affect your web surfing experience and with their copy of hosts file, you can block all traffic to those sites from your computer. Just follow the simple instructions on that site and stay parasite-free. You can join their mailing list and you will be notified whenever there is an update to their hosts file. You can also learn more from their blog. Are you camped out in youtube nowadays? Then you should read about malware invading youtube!

5. Use Promomitron or Proximodo

Proxomitron is a proxy you use with your browser. Quoting from Proximodo site: This is a proxy server that you can install locally and use to remove ads, banners, harmful scripts or tracing headers on-the-fly while you surf the web. It was written by Scott Lemmon who is no more.   You can find lots of information in the official site: http://www.proxomitron.info  You can also find a lot of support in these pages including a yahoogroups mailing list. The yahoogroups mailing list also has a lot of filters and goodies to work with Proxomitron.  Proximodo is a clone of Proxomitron and hopefully will be taken further.

6. Tools to fight malware

You can use these tools to rid your machine of malware.  Try the tools listed in this page. To that list, add Microsoft's Windows Defender and Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware.

So start with any of those and every month spend some time to update yourself on the tools and techniques. Also update your tools and run them periodically. Good luck and stay safe!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mozilla's Minefield browser

Mozilla's Minefield browser is awesome. I have been using it for the last few days and it seems to be pretty fast and the page rendering is crisp. You can download it here. Please don't replace your stable Firefox with this yet. Use it as a secondary as this is still in development. The current stable version is 3.0.6. And Minefield is 3.2! So it's really bleeding edge.

I follow a lot of Tamil sites and Minefield has the best rendering of that language so far. And most of the extensions seem to work. I will write more about the browser soon.

You can read some articles in the mean time here :-) Please tell them, I sent you!


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