heimskringla: (Default)
AKA "the stuff I use to fix other people's PC problems." So yeah, not only can I effect transubstantiation, I'm also a certifiable geek. I've had a good bit of experience as a network and system administrator (largely in a Linux and BSD environment with Windows desktops/clients). Most of these programs are for Windows (I might make a Linux and BSD utilities post if there's enough interest).

1. Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel. Stop stuff from starting up on boot from one location.

2. Brian Kato's Restoration - When you delete a file on Windows (and some other operating systems), that file isn't really deleted until it's overwritten by another file. The file is simply marked as 'deleted' and ignored by the operating system. Did you ever mistakenly delete an important file and then empty the recycle bin? It might be possible to recover it. This program is a standalone executable and is quite worth having.

3. SpinRite - It's a harddisk restoration and recovery utility with some preventative functionality. In my opinion, it's the best software-based data recovery tool on the market. At $89.00 USD, it's not a cheap program, but it's better than the alternative of not being able to do anything at all if your hard drive takes a nosedive.

4. Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) - This is a small program (bootable from floppy disk or CD) which allows for a proper format of your hard drive. It uses several methods to ensure that your data is as completely erased as possible. I like my privacy. Although I don't do anything terribly illegal (aside from the ocassional MP3 download), I don't like the idea that the data on my computer can be recovered if it should ever be siezed. The Patriot Act scares the hell out of me. Also useful if you want to sell your computer to someone and don't want to deal with the possibility that they might be able to recover personal financial documents or other stuff you'd rather they not see, like your porn collection.

5. System Rescue CD - If your computer is pretty FUBARed, but the hardware is still okay, the tools on this CD (which containsa Live CD type Linux OS) will allow you to gain access to your FUBARed system and backup any salvageable data. You can also edit partitions with QtParted (a free Partition Magic clone) without risking losing all of your data. Don't do any of these things if you don't know what you're doing.

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any harm you do to your, or another's, computer by using any of these utilities. If you FUBAR something, that's your fault. I'm also not advocating that you use any of these utilities to do anything illegal (like hide from an investigation or snoop someone's deleted files).
heimskringla: (Default)
I got pretty accustomed to not having to deal with a whole lot of viruses, trojans, or worms while using a Mac (and before that a PC running Linux, and now that I find myself using Windows XP Professional more often than one of my Linux installations, I figure I may as well share my coping strategies.

1. Get Firefox and see my post on Firefox themes and extensions. Internet Explorer is an okay browser, but it's not as nice as Firefox.

2. Make sure you have an anti-virus program. I use AVG Free Edition, and for most uses I recommend it over either McAfee or Norton. You don't need to worry about paying for a yearly subscription for updates, and it works just as well as either of the two aforementioned products.

3. Get Lavasoft's AdAware program. I prefer AdAware over Spybot and the various other adware scanners, so I'm obviously going to recommend it. This will help cut down on some browser related slugghishness and keep your cache free of tracking cookies and various other nasties.

4. On Windows, plenty of programs refuse to put themselves in the 'Startup' folder where you can find them easily and instead force you to run them and tick a little box to either force them to load or stop making them load on startup. Personally, this pisses me off. I use Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel to manage programs that startup when my computer loads. I only allow very necessary programs to load on startup, because the more programs you have set to load on startup, the longer it takes. I keep the 'Control Panel' version (which is accessible from the Windows Control Panel) installed on my computer and the standalone version on my thumbdrive as part of my Geeky Emergency Kit.

5. Go here to download various "power toys" for Windows XP. I recommend TweakUI and ClearType Tuner (if you use a laptop or LCD monitor). I use TweakUI to keep my desktop free of icons and shortcuts, even the Recycle Bin. I don't like anything on my desktop, period.

6. Use a custom hosts file. This is a little bit complex but not difficult to do. The hosts file is a text file on your system that stores a list of IP addresses and hosts (one pair per line). The hosts listed in this file will not be sent to an external DNS server, thusly preventing them from ever loading. Entries look like this:

127.0.0.1 bloatware.com

In the above example, the host 'bloatware.com' is associated with the IP address 127.0.0.1 (e.g. 'localhost,' which is your computer), so nothing that refers to 'bloatware.com' will actually load 'bloatware.com.'

So, how do you replace your default hosts file with one that will actually prevent the majority of spyware/adware/trojan-proffering websites from bothering you?

1. Download this file and open it with either XP's Compressed Folder program (or Winzip, which is bleh).
2. Click on "My Computer" in the Start menu (or your desktop shortcut).
3. Go to C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc
4. Copy the HOSTS file from above (either select it and right click to bring up the context menu or select it and use CTRL-C) OR drag and drop the file into the ETC folder.
5. You're done.
heimskringla: (Default)
After an early morning conversation with [livejournal.com profile] ebee where we briefly discussed web browsers, I've decided to pimp Firefox, because it's quite simply the most awesome browser ever. In general, unless you're a web developer, you really don't need to be using IE (okay, so there are some sites employing wacky ActiveX controls, like Vistaprint).

Firefox, for the uninformed, is a standalone browser originally based on Mozilla. It isn't the same browser as the one in Mozilla Suite (AKA SeaMonkey), however. Firefox's UI allows for customizable toolbars and various other things, and the code is tightly managed to avoid the bloat and resultant slugishness in Mozilla.

Propaganda: Why Switch?

I started using Firefox after my much beloved iBook bit the dust (its grave is currently under a pile of clothes in my closet, for the curious) and I was, thusly, deprived of Apple's Safari browser which had tabbed browsing features and an integrated popup blocker. I tried using IE for a while, but I found it cumbersome and clunky, and I really missed tabs.

The smart keywords are another excellent feature, and you can easily define new ones for search sites you frequently use.

Firefox's extensions allow developers and various other geeky types to alter and, obviously to extend, the functionality and behaviour of the browser. My LJ Client is a Firefox extension, and so is my GMail notifier.

Here's a list of the themes and extensions I use:

1. The Littlefox Theme - Littlefox is a nice, lightweight, utilitarian theme. I don't like huge icons, because they take up space that could be better used by the browser.

2. Adblock - Adblock is a handy little extension that allows you to block ads on webpages.

3. Tabbrowser Preferences - Allows users to further customize tabbed browsing in Firefox.

4. Tab X - It's not at all related to the Nation of Islam, I promise. Tab X is a handy little thing that places an 'X' on each of your tabs so you can close it without right-clicking on the tab to bring up a context menu or having to select the tab and click the little X all the way in the corner. I was used to the per-tab X from Safari, so it's nice and convenient.

5. Target Killer - Stops anchor targets _new and _blank (as well as allowing for the addition of other targets) from opening new windows.

6. Unread Tabs - Renders the title of a tab in italics, indicating that you've not yet visited that tab.

7. GMail Notifier - I always have Firefox running, even if I'm not really using it, and I find a notifier in the browser status bar easier to deal with than Google's standalone GMail notifier. YMMV.

8. Flashblock - It's sort of like Adblock, but it prevents all Flash content from being displayed and replaces it with a 'Play' icon. It has a whitelist function for sites that you'd like to 'play' upon loading.

9. Deepest Sender - I've only recently started using this plugin, but it might replace Seimagic as my LJ client.

10. Redirect Remover - I use this mostly for sites like About.com and Beliefnet.com who have annoying frame-based redirects for URLs linked on their sites. It removes them, just like you'd think something called "Redirect Remover" would.

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