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Computing related posts

Thanks Microsfoft, that is another good reason to use Linux!

Thanks Microsfoft, that is another good reason to use Linux!

This morning I had one of those rare occasions when I needed to boot into Windows XP. Two and a half hours and three re-boots later, Windows had finally finished updating and was ready to let me do some work. I flashed up Firefox only to get the following warning:

firefox warning

I was a wee bit perplexed until discovered that one of the Microsoft updates, the “.NET Framework Assistant plugin” pokes a a “critical” hole in the browser’s security (effectively bringing Firefox down to IE’s level). Fortunately my copy of Firefox is suitably up to date and blocks this unwanted plugin.

Apparently thanks to Microsoft this vulnerability, which exists in all versions of Internet Explorer, lays Firefox open to infection by the Trojan.PWS.ChromeInject.A. According to BitDefender researchers, “the Trojan filters data sent by the victim to a large number of designated banking websites which are used everyday in the UK for online shopping and financial transactions. Harvested login credentials will be sent to a web address similar to [removed]eex.ru. Both the domain and the hosting server are located in Russia, which points to the origins of this latest e-threat.”

Just to add to the fun, last May, Microsoft released an update that made it almost possible to uninstall the .NET framework. Given that one of the reasons I originally choose to abandon IE in favour for Firefox was safer browsing, I have now had to editing the windows register (details given here).

This sort of thing really makes me feel like abandoning Microsoft completely and just sticking with Ubuntu, which I use 90% of the time anyway.

Personal Computer World RIP

Personal Computer World RIP

As a long time subscriber to Personal Computer World magazine, I was shocked and saddened to receive a letter today telling me that the resent August 2009 issue (which I received in June, I don’t understand the dates on computer magazines either), is to be the last. Personal Computer World magazine has been running for over 30 years and has been one of the more readable computer magazines available in the UK. I for one shall miss it, I have learnt a lot over the years from reading it and I am not sure what I will replace it with. Personal Computer World RIP.

Some recent software experiences

Some recent software experiences

What do we all really want from our software? Well speaking for my self I just want something that works, is that really too much to ask for? Recently I have had two contrasting experiences, firstly I decided it was time to upgrade my anti-virus software. So I read a few reviews and tried out a trial package which came with a computer magazine I subscribe to, and ended up buying a licence for BitDefender Internet Security 2009.

Whilst using the trial package thing seemed to work fine, but having bought a license BitDefender has become somewhat more flaky. Although it has added an anti-spam tool bar to my e-mail client (Thunderbird) it has never actually done anything, done of the buttons on the tool bar work! Fortunately Thunderbird provides its own spam detection and moves most spam messages to a junk folder as soon as they arrive. Then BitDefender went though a phase of telling that every web page I visited was a phishing site, including ones which I had written my self, none of these sites were asking for any personal information. So I thought since I am paying for support I would try their Customer Support Live Assistance, which was frustratingly slow and failed to give any useful answer. So I ended up disabling this feature as I mostly use Firefox which has far more reliable anti-phishing protection built in. Next the automatic update stopped working, having tried the customer support, I decided this time to try the Support Forum, where I found a number of threads complaining of the same problem but no solution other than to carry out manual updates until one of them sorted out the problem. Then BitDefender went through a phase of falling over as soon I went on line taking the firewall with it. Fortunately that has now stopped, but it is not want you want from a security package. So if you are thinking of getting a new antivirus and security suit, not bother buying BitDefender, it’s not worth the money. Whereas Firefox and Thunderbird are excellent value for money (they are free!).

Second recent software experience, having recently seen an upsurge in spam on one of my e-mail accounts, I realised that the contact forms I have been using on this blog and my web site have been compromised. So time to get a new contact form, this time with more robust spam protection, my old system relied on little more than a bit of JavaScript and simply hiding the e-mail address. It was only a matter of time before some nasty person figured a way of getting past this (in this case about four years). So I decided that I wanted something more secure, a PHP solution seemed like a good idea, server side processing away from prying eyes. A quick internet search yielded, Mike Cherim’s GBCF-v3 Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form (also available as a WordPress plugin).

Now this is the sort of software I like, it is free to download, it works and if you do have a problem you can ask the developer and get a reply. Ok, if you want to make special modifications, say being able to choose more than one e-mail address from the form, he will charge you for making the mod, but then he has already given away the basic form for free and the guy has got to make a living. There is a web site which I am developing at the present where having a contact form where the user can choose from a list of recipients, who to send e-mail to, will be a useful addition. Especially if I can be reasonably confident that this won’t result in the recipients being spammed from the form.

Firefox 3 Released

Firefox 3 Released

If you are reading this Firefox 3 should have been released, and the world record attempt started. For those of us waiting keenly to get a hold of the new version is has been a frustrating day trying to download a browser that has not yet been released. Unfortunately the people at Mozilla who came up with the idea of a world record attempt forgot that the rest of the world is not on PDT and that they are a long way behind. Nor did they think to tell the rest of the world when users might be able to download, but hopefully by now the wait will be over and that it is worth it…

The only way to find out is to download Firefox 3 NOW!!

Firefox 3 is coming…

Firefox 3 is coming…

The wait is almost over Firefox 3 is coming, the much anticipated update of the popular Firefox browser will be released on the 17th June 2008. To celebrate this they have come up with the idea of try to set a world record for the most software downloads in 24 hours, which will occur on Firefox 3 launch day. For more information go to the Download Day 2008 web site.

For those who can’t wait that long Firefox 3 Release Candidate 3 is available now in more than 45 languages. The only outstanding issues with the Mac OS X version of the browser. So if you are not a Mac OS X user why not beat the rush and download it now! Go on you know you want to …

Junk mail

Junk mail

Despite being signed up to the Mailing Preference Service I still get some junk mail. I got one such item this morning from the Domain Registry of America helpfully pointing out that one of the domain name which I own expires later this year. The letter is laid out to look like a bill, although is does say that it is not, and it requires me to reply a full three months before my registration expires. So I was immediately suspicious, the rate they were offering was more expensive than I am currently paying, so I have no intention of using them. A quick Google search show that I was right to be suspicious this is defiantly a scam. So if you have a web site with your own domain name and you get a letter like this with Registration Services on the outside and Domain Registry of America on the letter head, put it strait in the recycling bucket.

Flickr whips up a storm

Flickr whips up a storm

Flickr the photo sharing site has whipped up a storm of protest from its users by censoring photos posted by its users. Based on the location of their Yahoo! ID, users in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong and Korea are only able to view “safe content”, even if they have posted the material themselves. This heavy handed approach has done much to upset large numbers of Flickr members. Censorship is by its very nature a bad thing and should be opposed by all thinking people. The advent of the Internet has given ordinary people a voice which can be heard the world over, any attempt to stifle that freedom of expression should be resisted, for the good of us all.

Firefox increasingly popular across Europe

Firefox increasingly popular across Europe

The latest new from XiTi Monitor show that Firefox usage rate in Europe has gained nearly five percentage points since April 2006. Firefox cannot be stopped and is now close to 25% of all European browser use. However, Europe still remains lower than Oceania’s since November 2006. In the browser wars, Firefox 2 leads over IE 7 in 14 European countries. While IE 7 has leaped ahead in some countries during December 2006 this rate has slowed and has been leaning towards stagnation since mid February 2007. So join the revolution to take back the Web download Firefox 2 today!

Dell preload Linux

Dell preload Linux

Full marks to Dell for offering Linux pre-installed as an alternative to Windows on their disk top and laptop machines. You can choose between Red Hat or Novell SUSE on selected machines, this should save you about £50 on the price. It will be even better when the Dell web site catches up. I hope the other computer manufactures will take note and follow suit. For those who want to stick with windows but try Linux there is always the dual boot option.

The Mozilla Manifesto

The Mozilla Manifesto

I have been using Mozilla browsers and other software of some years now, I use the the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird e-mail client on a daily basis. It has always felt somehow right. When I first started to use the internet Mosaic was the web browser of choice, this was soon replaced by Netscape (and for the record in those day I was using Pegasus Mail for e-mail). The reason this Netscape took over from Mosaic is simply that it was a better browser. This was at a time when Bill Gates was telling us that the World Wide Web was just a flash in the pan and wasn’t going to be anything of significance.

It took a couple of years for the Redmond Giant to wake up to their mistake, when they did their response was to try and grab control of the internet. One had the feeling that Internet Explorer and Outlook where more or less rammed down our throats. It became the dominate web browser not because it was better, but because this was what the big corporates decided that we should use. If that sounds like paranoia remember this was the time before broadband when most people only had internet access through their workplace. Most business, even now, don’t really understand the internet and tend to stick to “brands” that have heard of even if it is not in their (or their customers) best interests.

Now we are in the broadband era, people have more choice about how they access the web (and the internet in general) so I am thankful that software such as the Firefox still exists. You only have to look at the Mozilla Manifesto which has been published recently, to see the difference in philosophy between Mozilla (and the open source community generally) and that of certain corporate software giants.

I am not going to layout the whole manifesto here but I think that the principles are worth listing here:

  1. The Internet is an integral part of modern life – a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole.
  2. The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.
  3. The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.
  4. Individuals’ security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.
  5. Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.
  6. The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.
  7. Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource.
  8. Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability, and trust.
  9. Commercial involvement in the development of the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial goals and public benefit is critical.
  10. Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

So if you haven’t tried Firefox yet, it is fast, it is safe, it is flexible and it is free, why not try it today, what have you got to loose?

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
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