Friday, November 12, 2010

Recommended Firefox's Privacy Add-ons

Are you tired of ad networks, companies, etc. mining your browsing data? Worried about Flash supercookies, web bugs, etc?

One reason I continue to use Firefox, notwithstanding its memory leak, is its arsenal of powerful add-ons that allow me to control my browsing experience.

Here is what I have installed in my Firefox (on both Ubuntu and Windows platforms):
  • NoScript - My favorite tool for controlling javascript and protecting against cross-scripting, clickjacking and other exploits.

  • Better Privacy - Excellent tool to control Flash supercookies

  • Ghostery - Excellent tool to control web bugs that track page visits for data mining purposes.

  • HTTPS Everywhere - Forces Firefox to use secure browsing (https) to visit popular websites.

  • Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-out (TACO) - Provides granular control over ad networks mining your data. Allows you to block selected or all ad networks, etc.

  • Click & Clean - An easy-to-use one-click menu to delete private browsing data, internet history, etc. Works for the Windows version of Firefox only (Mac and Linux versions are forthcoming).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Using Ninite To Install Multiple Apps Simultaneously on Windows & Ubuntu

In an earlier blog post, Freeware Maintenance and Antimalware Software for Windows, I recommended freeware maintenance and antimalware software for Windows that I am using on my Windows systems.

It can be a hassle to install these software easily.

Enter Ninite Easy PC Setup for Windows, which allows you to install multiple apps at once without junkware (e.g., toolbars that you have to deselect) and multiple "Click Yes to Continue" screens. Pick the software or app you want from the list of 80+ that is conveniently sorted by category for your easy reference. Then click the "Get Installer" button and you are on your way.

If you are running Ubuntu, Ninite for Linux installs useful apps and software in the same manner as the Windows version. Just select the app(s) you want and click "Get Installer."

To update your Flash player (Windows or Ubuntu) in the same easy manner, visit Ninite's UpdateFlash.org site.

Links:

Using Diskpart on your Windows CD to Zero Out Your Hard Drive

One easy way to zero out your hard drive, i.e., writing zeros to your hard drive to wipe out any data (e.g., before you sell your old computer on EBay, donate it to Goodwill, etc) is to use Diskpart.exe, a utility that is shipped on every Microsoft Windows Installation CD.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to use Diskpart:
  1. Insert your Windows CD into the optical drive and boot into a command prompt.

  2. Type diskpart to load the utility.

  3. Type list disk. Diskpart will list all the hard drive(s) on your computer.

  4. Type select disk x (where x=the number of the disk you want to zero out). Diskpart will return "Disk x is now the selected disk."

  5. Type clean all and Diskpart will completely zero out the entire disk.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Freeware Maintenance & Antimalware Software for Windows

I am often asked by family members and friends to recommend freeware maintenance and antimalware software for Windows. Here's a listing of what I use on my own Windows computers:
  • Firewall: ZoneAlarm Free Firewall
    Very user friendly and easy to configure, monitors both inbound and outbound traffic, free version is good enough for home use (and certainly much better than the basic firewall that Microsoft bundles with Windows).

  • Antivirus: Avast Free Antivirus
    The free version is roboust enough to detect antivirus and trojan attacks.

  • Maintenance Software:
    Here is a list of what I use in my own Windows systems:
    • CCleaner: No-nonsense scrubbing and cleaning of your system, hard drive & registry.
    • Recuva: what I use to recover deleted files.
    • Eraser Portable: what I use when I want to securely delete files.
    • Defraggler: I prefer this to the built-in Windows defragmentation app.
    • Revo Uninstaller: The free version is able to uninstall most of the residue left behind by the built-in Windows uninstaller.

  • System Information: Speccy - a powerful and advanced system information tool that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about your hardware, OS and software configuration settings.

  • Antimalware Sofware (for use if your system is infected with malware):
    • Malwarebytes - this is what I use to zap malware infection in round #1
    • SuperAntiSpyware - in round #2, I use this to tackle the leftover infections
    • ComboFix - finally, I use this to scan the system to ensure that all infections are removed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Accessing Your Outlook WebMail Using Thunderbird

Tired of accessing your Outlook WebMail using Microsoft's clunky web interface?

Do you know that you can configure a mail client such as Thunderbird to access your Outlook WebMail? You should consult Microsoft's step-by-step instructions on setting up Thunderbird to access your Outlook WebMail via IMAP4: Set Up Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 For Your E-mail Account.

Link: Set Up Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 For Your E-mail Account.

If your e-mail is hosted on a Microsoft Exchange server instead of Outlook.com, you can still access your Outlook Exchange e-mails with Thunderbird. For detailed instructions, please consult my earlier blog post: Using DavMail Gateway to allow Thunderbird to access Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 & Earlier.


How to Send Text Messages for Free Without A Text Message Plan

Do you know that you can send text messages for free, i.e., without a text message plan?

Here are two ways of sending text messages for free, i.e., without a text message plan on your cellphone or paying a fortune to your cellphone provider:
  1. Use a free web-based service such as Heywire.com or txtDrop.com

  2. Send your text message as an e-mail using SMS gateways, i.e., backdoors that convert your e-mails into text messages and route them to the recipient cellphone. For step-by-step instructions on how to do so, see Popular Mechanics' How To E-mail Text Messages To Any Phone
Links:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cheat Sheets/Quick References for Programmers & Developers

Link: DevCheatSheet.com

About this site (from the site's FAQ):
DevCheatSheet.com is a directory of free, technical cheat sheets and quick reference cards for developers, programmers, engineers, and nerds. Cheat sheets are aggregated from around the web into one centralized directory. All cheat sheets on DevCheatSheet.com are free and each has been manually reviewed to assure high quality. This site was created in 2009 by Tim Church. Every blog seemed to be doing its own "cheat-sheet roundup", but there was no good directory site for cheatsheets. Finding good reference cards was a challenge because Google often gives mediocre results (probably due to the many different names/keywords for cheat sheets) DevCheatSheet.com was created to fill this void and simplify the process of finding the best cheat sheets on the web.

My Take: An extremely comprehensive resource. Simply the best one-stop site to look for a cheat sheet or quick reference info. I have downloaded and used a variety of cheat sheets from this site. Highly recommended!

Link: DevCheatSheet.com

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Open Nautilus as Root in Ubuntu

Wouldn't it be convenient to work in Nautilus as root instead of working in terminal? Here's how you can open Nautilus as root in Ubuntu:

Step 1: Press the [ALT] + [F2] keys. This calls up the "Run Application" box.

Step 2: Type or copy/paste the following: gksu nautilus

And voila! You can now work in Nautilus as a root user.

While it is true you can also fire up terminal and type sudo nautilus, I would prefer to use gksu for graphical apps and keep sudo for command-line apps. For a more thorough discsussion of the differences between gksu and sudo, check out this article: Running Sudo Graphically.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Generating Placeholder Text (Lorem ipsum) in Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010

Do you know that you can automatically generate placeholder text (a.k.a. "Lorem ipsum") in Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 using the command:

=lorem (x,y)

where x=total number of paragraphs and x=total number of lines

For example, typing:
=lorem (2,10) will generate 2 paragraphs with a total of 10 lines of lorem ipsum.

The default =lorem() will generate 2 paragraphs with a total of 6 lines of lorem ipsum.

Unfortunately, this trick does not work in Microsoft Word 2003.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Using Proxy Servers To Bypass Web Filters

Many schools, colleges, employers, corporations, and even countries employ web filters to control the sites that a person can visit. A savvy user can get around web filters through the use of proxy servers. GeekersMagazine has an excellent article, Proxy Websites to access Blocked Sites From School, College or Office, which also lists the various proxy servers and sites that you can use to bypass various web filters.

Link: Proxy Websites to access Blocked Sites From School, College or Office (GeekersMagazine)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free Reverse Landline and Cellphone Number Lookups

Phonelookup.com offers free (at least for now) reverse phone lookups for U.S. phone numbers. Type in the phone number in the search box and Phonelookup.com will try to locate the name and address of the subscriber.

I tested the search engine with several different numbers. Phonelookup.com is reasonably accurate with landlines, undoubtedly because of publicly available data. Cellphone lookups are more iffy.

If you are looking for a free service, this would be a good one to try.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blocking Adult Content From Your Home Network Using OpenDNS's Family Shield

Want to protect your kids from the web's seedy side but don't want to deal with the hassle of installing software-based web filters?

OpenDNS has launched a new service, i.e., the Family Shield that provides an easy way to block questionable content and the usual web filter workarounds using proxy servers, anonymizing tools, etc.

You could either set it up the easy way using on OpenDNS's Family Shield web page. For specific directions on how to fine tune your settings, see How-to Geek's handy explanation: Protect Your Kids Online Using OpenDNS

If you don't want to use OpenDNS's additional services or leery of registering and giving them your e-mail, you could always setup the Family Shield directly by entering the following IP addresses:
208.67.222.123 (principal)
208.67.220.123 (alternative)
in your router's or your OS's network configuration.

Don't know how to change your DNS server? Google has easy to understand instructions. Replace the principal and alternative Google numerical IP addresses with OpenDNS's Family Shield numerical IP addresses.

Links:
Open DNS's Family Shield
Protect Your Kids Online Using Open DNS (How-to Geek)

See also: Changing your Domain Name System (DNS) to OpenDNS or Google Public DNS.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Everything You Wanted To Know About Website Analytics

Everything you wanted to know about website analytics:
  • Google Webmaster Tools Best free tools for analyzing web traffic patterns to your site.

  • Spyfu An excellent tool to track your competitor's advertising reach and their cost per click, popular Google Adsense keywords, etc. Very useful for giving you a snapshot of what your competitors are up to and their ad spending, so that you could plan your own response. Note that the free service is limited.

  • Open Site Explorer - Very useful web analytical tool to check links on your or your competitor's site. Offers free and pro services.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Google PacMan!



Enjoy playing Google PacMan? Thanks to overwhelming requests, Google has enshrined its PacMan game at: http://www.google.com/pacman.

If you have your own website or blog, go ahead to impress your friends and site visitors by embedding Google PacMan on your site.

Links:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How To Permanently Delete Your Facebook Account

Tired of how Facebook is reducing your ability to control the dissemination of your personal information? Unhappy with how Facebook crushes your privacy with impunity? Paranoid about Facebook's ever expanding tentacles into all aspects of the web?

If you ever wanted out of Facebook permanently because of privacy concerns, Consumerist.com has an easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions on deleting your Facebook account forever.

Or you can click on the following link after you have logged into Facebook:
https://ssl.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account

Links:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lightweight Linux Distros

Looking for a lightweight Linux distro for your ancient computer or underpowered netbook?

TuxRadar recent tested the major lightweight Linux distros and proclaim Slitaz to be the winner. As for me, I used Damn Small Linux (DSL) in the past but have recently switched to using LXDE on an ancient (circa 2000) Toshiba Satellite laptop with 64 MB RAM.

Link: What's the Best Lightweight Linux Distro? (TuxRadar)

UPDATED 6/03/10: Using Calibre to Manage Your E-Book Collection & Convert Your Ebooks from PDFs to ePub Format for your iPad

Looking to convert your E-Book Collection in PDF or other formats to the ePub format for your brand new iPad?

You would want to download and use Calibre -- a highly rated open-source cross-platform e-book management application that allows you to manage your e-book collection, convert your e-book collection to different formats, etc. As a cross-platform software, Calibre is available for Windows, OS X and Linux platforms. Ubuntu users can also install Calibre from Ubuntu software repository via the Synaptic Package Manager.

UPDATED (6/03/2010):
For instructions on how to use Calibre, consult MaximumPC.com's very helpful article, How-to: Manage and Convert Your Ebooks with Calibre. You might also want to consult Lifehacker's has come up with How can I convert PDFs and Other Ebooks to the ePub Format?

Links:
Calibre Official Site
How Can I Convert PDFs and Other Ebooks to the ePub Format? (LifeHacker)
How-to: Manage and Convert Your Ebooks with Calibre (MaximumPC)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Everything You Wanted To Know About Google's Tricks and Tips

Everything you wanted to know about the tricks and tips to be a power user of Google's various apps and services:

(1) General Stuff

(2) Google Search

(3) Google Search Engine Optimization

(4) Google Apps

(5) Google Calendar

(6) Google Chrome

(7) GMail

(8) Google Maps

(9) Google Public DNS


(10) Google Safe Browsing Diagnostic Tool:
  • Type: http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=xyz.com in your browser, where xyz.com = the website you want Google to diagnose.

(11) Privacy

(12) Google Drive

See my other blog postings in the "Everything You Want To Know" Series.

Resources for Unlocking Your Nokia Phone

Roundup of resources for unlocking your Nokia phone:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Google's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 101

Google has recently released an excellent beginner's guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Google SEO Resources for Beginners.

It is not only a good systematic introduction to SEO, but also provides tips and suggestions for both beginners and experts alike.

Link: Google SEO Resources for Beginners

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All About Google Chrome Extensions


NEW ADDITIONS UPDATED: May 25, 2010

Since December 2009, Google Chrome has added support for extensions, which are similar to Firefox add-ons. The selection of Google Chrome extensions is puny, compared to the vast library of add-ons for Firefox. If you want to experiment, here is a round-up of various recommendations for your reference:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keeping Your Firefox Plugins Updated

How often do you update your browser plugins or check whether you have the latest versions? It is a chore that most people often overlook. Keeping your plugins updated to the latest version significantly reduces the risk of attack by malware, viruses, etc. that exploit flaws in older versions of the plugins.

If you are a Firefox user, Mozilla has created a Plugin Check page to allow you to check whether you have the latest plugins and to update your plugins by clicking "Update."

Official Link: Mozilla Plugin Check Page or click the banner below:
We can check your plugins and stuff

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Using DavMail Gateway To Allow Thunderbird To Access Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 & Earlier

Your employer uses Microsoft Exchange and allows you to access your e-mail, calendar and contacts via Outlook installed on employer-issued computers. You want to access your e-mails, calendar and contacts on your own computer using a client such as Mozilla Thunderbird. Your employer refuses to enable IMAP access, citing security risks. Microsoft Exchange uses proprietary MAPI protocols, which are incompatible with the open protocols that Thunderbird and other clients use.

With IMAP disabled by your employer, you are forced to use the clunky web-based Outlook Web Access. What do you do?

Enter DavMail Gateway.

DavMail Gateway is an open-source POP/IMAP/SMTP/Caldav/LDAP exchange gateway that enables users to use any mail/calendar client (e.g. Thunderbird with Lightning or Apple iCal) with any Microsoft Exchange server.

DavMail Gateway's mechanism is deceptively simple yet elegant: it uses Outlook Web Access to retrieve your e-mail, calendar and contacts from your employer's Exchange server and then retransmit them to your local client using open standard compliant protocols (e.g., LDAP, SMTP, IMAP, Caldav, POP).

DavMail Gateway is compatible with Microsoft Exchange 2007 and earlier. It is written in Java and officially tested on Windows, Ubuntu and Mac OS X platforms.

Here is a visual schematic of how DavMail Gateway works:


I have tested the latest version of DavMail Gateway with Thunderbird 3 on my home computers running Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.10 to access my employer's Microsoft Exchange 2007 server at work and I am pleased to say that DavMail Gateway works like a charm, allowing the Thunderbird installed on my Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.10 systems to access my employer's Exchange 2007 server without any problems.

No more clunky Outlook Web Access for me.

DavMail is hosted on sourceforge.net.

Visit DavMail Gateway's official site -- http://davmail.sourceforge.net -- for detailed setup instructions, latest versions for downloading, etc.


SETUP INSTRUCTIONS:

NB: This method does not apply if you are accessing your e-mail through Outlook.com. You can still use Thunderbird to access your Outlook.com e-mail. For detailed instructions, see my blog post: Accessing Your Outlook WebMail Using Thunderbird.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Changing your Domain Name System (DNS) to Open DNS or Google Public DNS

Most computer users use the default Domain Name System (DNS) that is provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). A Domain Name System is a network service that converts a web address (e.g., http://www.anyname.com/) into its numerical equivalent (e.g., 123.345.567.789).

If you are dissatisfied with your ISP's DNS, you can define your own DNS either in your router's configuration screen or in your operating system's network preference. The two principal public DNS service that are widely used are:
Open DNS's IP addresses are:
  • 208.67.222.222
  • 208.67.220.220
Note: You do not need to sign up for an Open DNS account if you only want to use the basic Open DNS without additional services. You only need to enter the above two DNS IP addresses into your router's or your OS's network configuration.

Google DNS's IP addresses are:
  • 8.8.8.8
  • 8.8.4.4
Don't know how to change your DNS server? Google has easy to understand instructions. If you plan to use Open DNS's servers, use the two Open DNS's numerical IP addresses instead of Google's IP addresses.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

15 Hacks Every Dropbox User Should Know


MaximumPC.com has come out with an excellent discussion of "15 Hacks Every Dropbox User Should Know." If you are a Dropbox user, you would want to read this article, which gives you tips on how to be a Dropbox power user.
Currently, Dropbox is running a promotion whereby if you sign up using my referral link, both you and I get 250 MB of bonus space. In other words, if you sign up using my referral link, you will get 2 GB+250 MB space. This is certainly a win-win situation for you and I.