Archive for March, 2009

Home security myths

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I keep coming across loads of home security myths on forums an din blog posts on the web. Most of these myths start out as good intentions but spread widely to become damaging urban myths.

Here are a few for you:

  • Hiding the SSID on your WiFi router makes you safer - it doesn't, and the same goes for MAC ID filtering and switching off DHCP
  • Writing down a password is bad - depends who you are trying to keep out!
  • A really long password is better than one that is 8 to 10 characters long - not usually.
  • You should run more than one antivirus/firewall software - that'll cause more problems than it solves.
  • Trust your security software - no piece of software can replace common sense!
  • Most PC problems are the result of malware/hacker - no, most problems are down to the user!
  • Most data loss is down to hacker/malware - again, no
  • If you see HTTPS in the address bar of a browser, you are safe - there's a lot more to it than that.

New keyboard shortcuts in Windows 7

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I've been using Windows 7 on several of my main systems for a while now and overall I've grown quite attached to it. But with every new OS comes a new learning curve, and one thing that I like to master are the new keyboard shortcuts.

These are the keyboard shortcuts that I find the most useful.

Note: The keyboard shortcuts I describe here will b written in the following format A+B or A+B+C to indicate the two or three keys that need to be pressed to activate the shortcut. The + between the keys should NOT be pressed!

  • WinKey+T - Puts the focus on the Taskbar that either allows you to use cursor keys to move through the options or WinKey+1 through to WinKey+5 to activate the first five Taskbar entries.
  • WinKey+UpArrow and WinKey+DownArrow activate shortcuts for Maximize and Restore/Minimize respectively.
  • WinKey+LeftArrow and WinKey+RightArrow snap the current window to the left or right side of the desktop.
  • WinKey+Shift+LeftArrow and WinKey+Shift+RightArrow moves the current window to the left or right display.
  • WinKey++ and WinKey+- zooms in and out of the desktop. Very handy!
  • WinKey+G displays all gadgets above all windows.


Norton comes clean about PIFTS.EXE

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Yesterday Norton Internet Security/AntiVirus started noticing a file called PIFTS.EXE running on their system. Within moments customers started posting questions about this file on Norton's community forum. Then, mysteriously, admins on the forum started to delete those messages (fortunately Google has a long memory).

Within moments a storm of conspiracy theories whipped up.

So, what was this mysterious file? Symantec explains:

Dave Cole, senior director of product management at Symantec, said the PIFTS file was part of a "diagnostics patch" shipped to Norton customers on Monday evening. The purpose of the update, Cole said, was to hep determine how many customers would need to be migrated to newer versions of its software as more Windows users upgrade to Windows 7.

"We have to make sure before we migrate users to a new product that we can see what kind of load we can expect on our servers, and which customers are going to have to be moved up to the latest version of our product," Cole said.

As to why Symantec has been deleting posts about this from their user forum, Cole said the company noticed that minutes after the update went out hundreds of new users began registering on the forum, leaving inane and sometimes abusive comments.

"We want to be out there in the community, but by the same token, if we see abuse we will shut it down pretty quickly," Cole said. "There was no attempt at secrecy here, but people were spamming the forum and making it unusable to everyone."

This is an example of how to get PR wrong. How long would it have taken Symantec to have put out a statement explaining the situation. This would have diffused the hassles and conspiracy theories right off the bat. It would have been easier than messing about trying to silence customers posting on a forum about a product they've paid for (no matter how inelegantly they made their point!).

March’s Patch Tuesday

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Here are the updates Microsoft has released today:



  • Vulnerability in SChannel Could Allow Spoofing (960225)
    This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in the Secure Channel (SChannel) security package in Windows. The vulnerability could allow spoofing if an attacker gains access to the certificate used by the end user for authentication. Customers are only affected when the public key component of the certificate used for authentication has been obtained by the attacker through other means.
  • Vulnerabilities in DNS and WINS Server Could Allow Spoofing (962238)This security update resolves two privately reported vulnerabilities and two publicly disclosed vulnerabilities in Windows DNS server and Windows WINS server. These vulnerabilities could allow a remote attacker to redirect network traffic intended for systems on the Internet to the attacker’s own systems.

Cheap PC upgrades

Friday, March 6th, 2009

With the economy being as it is, one thing that people want to know is how to get a super-fast for very little money. Over the past few weeks I've put together a number of posts over on Hardware 2.0 to help people with that.

Monster PC upgrades - Without the monster price tag!

Here I looked at two different upgrades to an existing PC - the all-rounder upgrade package and the super overclocker package.

Here's what was in each package:

All rounder

  • AMD Athlon X2 4850e CPU
  • Foxconn A7GM-S motherboard
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GSO graphics card

Super overclocker

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 CPU
  • BioStar TForce TP45HP motherboard
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT graphics card

These upgrades packages cost in the region of $215 and $370 respectively.

Hardware 2.0 'Very Best Kit List' for Mar/Apr 09

I publish a best kit list every couple of months and it's always very popular. This month I posted the best budget, mid-range and extreme components in the following categories:

Recommendation for Dwight Silverman's $300 PC upgrade

Finally, Dwight Silverman of TechBlog asked for recommendations for PC upgrades for under $300.

Here's my parts recommendation:

  • Intel E7400 2.80GHz Core 2 Duo CPU
  • 2×2GB Corsair RAM
  • MSI P45 Neo3-FR or BioStar TForce TP45HP motherboards

Have fun, and happy PC building/upgrading!