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In this document I will give you a list of programs that you can activate to protect your computer and to help with other tasks. These are free programs that you can download from the Internet. Links to the websites are given below.
Two websites offer free online virus scanning and both work very well. One program is called "House Call" and the other is Panda Active Scan. If you've been on the Internet and did not have a firewall installed or a virus program running, then I recommend that you use both of these to scan your computer. Occasionally one program will catch something that the other missed, although that is pretty rare. It is not absolutely necessary that you buy a virus scanning program since these are available. If you can remember to scan your computer once every week or two that is sufficient for the average user. But, if you need the extra level of protection from files that you download or install, a program on your computer is necessary. For most people the free version of AVG will work well enough, but a purchased version has some advantages for configuration purposes.
A virus scanning program can slow down your computer. How so? Simple. It takes resources away from your computer, especially if the "real time" file scanning function is activated. The "real time" file scanning function (depending upon the program) will scan certain file types whenever your computer attempts to open them, or, alternately, will scan every file your computer attempts to open. This will slow the computer's speed unless you have a really fast computer to begin with. AVG has a "real time" function enabled by default and I have always disabled it because of the drag on the system. My Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 2003 does not do that but it has a setting that automatically scans any Microsoft Word or Excel document that I attempt to open. I noticed that this slowed down the opening of the program and disabled that function. It is easier and quicker for me to scan a new file instead of scanning every file every time when no one has used them but me! In an office setting where I regularly swapped files with someone, I would not have disabled it, but my home computer does not need that extra level of security.
AVG offers version 6 as the free download. You will have to go to the website and begin the download proceedure so that they can e-mail you a registration code. Go to this page to begin the process.
The MSN Toolbar
The Google Toolbar
Spybot Search and Destroy
This is a program that soley goes after malware. I've only recently discovered it. It may be a good way to further double-check for nasty stuff. There is a commercial version available, but this one allows you to update the database and as long as you don't want the advanced functions, it should serve nicely. When you install the software you will have to go to the website to register it. The website is here.
This is a program that will load a number of despicable sites into your Internet Explorer browser's "Restricted" zone map. This means that even if your browser attempts to access one of these restricted sites all that will show up is a blank page. It is a good idea to get the latest version since it will be updated with the latest websites.
This is a tool to help diagnose browser hijack problems. I have included it in the event that you need it, but otherwise don't worry about it.
Other free software is Spamihilator, SpamPal, and Spambayes. I've tried all three programs and prefer one of the first two. Setting them up confused me a bit, but after a while I got them to work. They both require small changes to the way your email reader is configured to receive mail. Both have advantages unique to them. The SpamPal may not be the better choice because it does not delete or otherwise shelter you or your child from the content of the Spam. All it does is mark the mail as ***SPAM*** but it still downloads it to your e-mail box. Spamihilator has the option of parental controls which prevents your child from seeing the Spam mail and gives you time to check and delete it. Spamihilator also will leave the Spam on your server until you chose to delete it. It has a Learning filter, and also comes with numerous plug-ins which enhance its ability. Perhaps as important as anything is that it easily allows you to select e-mail addresses and add them to either your "approved" list or your "block sender" list. It is important to add addresses of Spam to your "block sender" list because when Spammers receive a returned e-mail they will often remove that e-mail address from their list since it is "dead."
Important! Note that Spam filtering software will not work on webmail accounts, such as AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, and others. You must have a POP3 accessible server. For instance, Yahoo will not work unless you subscribe to the Yahoo paid service which is about $20 per year. You must, in all cases, download the e-mail to your computer for the Spam filter to work. It sits between your computer's e-mail reader and your Internet provider's e-mail box. When you retrieve your e-mail it then filters it like a sieve. Most ISPs offer you both a Webmail and a POP3 option.
I suggest going to the website and getting the most recent plug-ins to extend its capability. You don't need them all and you can add them as you desire. Try one out and then try another. The single filter that has caught more Spam than any other of the plug-ins is this one: URL Filter 1.8.0. The screenshot below will give you some idea of its function. Note that the Recycle Bin lists all of the Spam the filter caught. Notice how often you see the URL-1.8.0 filter and also that the Learning Filter, which learns from the Spam you receive, is working well. It lists which of its filters caught it, usually rates its probablity of being Spam, and will allow you to select the entries to enter into your Blocked Senders List. The Spam that was received last is in bold. I had selected these to add to my Blocked Senders List.
The image just below that one is an "animated gif" file. It shows messages that were identified as Spam, then I sort them, mark the ones that it missed as Spam, select the whole group and add them to the "blocked senders" list, then run the "learn" process on them in which information from the Spam is added to the program's database to improve its Spam-catching ability.
Internet Explorer has improved over the years and is a fine browser today. It is a "stand alone" program, which means no other software is bundled with it (such as a mail reader or HTML editor). Because it is so widely used it is the industry standard. Some web sites are designed only for IE and only look good or work properly with IE. But popularity also has its downside. People who write viruses almost exclusively target IE because it is so widely used. That means that using a non-standard browser like Netscape, Opera, Firefox, or others could protect you from a lot of viruss. That may not be a choice you have at work, but it is a choice you can make at home. In addition, some of the lesser used browsers have some nice features that may serve you well.
Even though a number of browsers and e-mail readers are available, at this time I only recommend a few, all of which are related projects. The Netscape/Mozilla/Firebird family is clearly the second-most popular browser on the net with Opera probably being the next. While Opera is apparently quite good, I do not recommend it because of the ads. If you have the time and inclination, I urge you to check out some of the alternatives just for fun. But here I am making my comments based upon usability and reliability. Lesser known browsers may not be as reliable.Netscape
Netscape is the old-style "suite." That means that it is a browser, a mail reader, has an HTML composer, and its own address book. You can chose which elements to install if you desire, otherwise all of them are installed. It is important to note that the address book is not the same as the Microsoft address book that is used by Windows. If you like having one place where all your addresses are kept, then the mail reader portion of this suite may not be for you. I have always preferred Netscape's mail reader because it would do more than Outlook, and it had BCC easily available. The address book in Windows is another security risk because virus writers target it as well. They want to send e-mail to the people in your address book and since most people use it they target it. But don't be too afraid. A good virus scanner can keep you from becoming infected.
Netscape is the best, most solid, and most compatable
alternative to IE. It doesn't require frequent updates or
patches, and once it is set up will run very well. It also
features "tabbed browsing" which I will discuss further
Like Netscape, this is a solid alternative to IE and it has even more viewing space because the top bar of icons is smaller. While it is still being developed, it will be changing in the future (see Firefox below).Mozilla 1.7 suite (browser, email reader, and html composer)
As much as I like this I have to say it has some problems. Unlike Netscape and Mozilla, it is not yet as closely compatable with IE as they are. The reason is that it is still under development and is not a mature project like the other two. It will do almost everything you want on the internet, but there are some web sites where it will not work entirely correctly so on occasion I still use IE. Both Firefox and Mozilla also have the option of installing "extensions." These are add-on things that people develop which perform useful tasks. For example, I love "Session Saver." No matter how many tabs I have open, when I close my browser it saves the session. The next time I open it, it takes me back to the same pages I was looking at when I closed it. If you like to play around, then I suggest you try this out just for the educational value of it. It is no trouble to use one browser or the other. The only thing that becomes a question is "bookmarks" or "favorites." But you don't have to make that decision until after you've played around with them and decided what you like.
Thunderbird stand-alone email
This is the "cutting edge" of mail reader technology from the Mozilla family. Again, this is a re-design of the Mozilla mail reader and works just like Mozilla and Netscape. It is also a project under development but is already very easy to us and reliable. I use it for everything related to my e-mail or newsgroups and have had no problems with it. Just a reminder, it does not use the Windows address book so you will have to import any addresses from Outlook, which is a simple process. Because a mail reader holds e-mail addresses and e-mail, it is a bit more trouble to switch back and forth between them. I recommend that people research them a bit before committing to one or the other.
Zip is a common term for data compression. It was invented at Georgia Tech in the 1980s and became the standard for data compression. Many other forms of data compression have arisen, but this is still the most popular and has given us the name.
This is a download manager. When downloading large files from the Internet, it is nice to have one. If your download gets intertupted you would probably lose all your time and effort. But with a download manager you can simply resume where you left off. In fact, you can even stop the download and finish it later. Downloads can also be scheduled. This program requires that you visit the website for a registration code.
Fresh User Interface
This is a program that you can use to "tweak" your computer. Again, visit the Fresh Devices website to obtain a registration code.
The Fresh Devices site offers these programs for free, but they do advertise to you whenever you visit their site. They will also frequently update their programs so that you keep coming back to the site for the newest download and see the advertisements once again. I don't mind this approach because the ads are not built into the program, as is the case with Download Accelerator. With DAP, you have to purchase it to have the ads removed. Otherwise it is a fine product that you can also use for free.
Type Faster (for beginning typists)
Typing Tutor (for beginning
Typing Test (for more advanced
Burn4Free (a CD burning utility)
Audacity a free audio recording and editing program.