Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thought for you, yes you -- you know who you are . . .

Before you begin a thing,
remind yourself that difficulties
and delays quite impossible to foresee are ahead.
If you could see them clearly,
naturally you could do a great deal to get rid of them
but you can't.
You can only see one thing clearly
and that is your goal.
Form a mental vision of that
and cling to it through thick and thin.

- Kathleen Norris

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That e-Valentine card might be an infection


"With the Valentine's Day holiday approaching, be on the lookout for spam e-mails spreading the Storm Worm malicious software (malware). The e-mail directs the recipient to click on a link to retrieve the electronic greeting card (e-card). Once the user clicks on the link, malware is downloaded to the Internet connected device and causes it to become infected and part of the Storm Worm botnet. A botnet is a network of compromised machines under the control of a single user. Botnets are typically set up to facilitate criminal activity such as spam e-mail, identity theft, denial of service attacks, and spreading malware to other machines on the Internet.

The Storm Worm virus has capitalized on various holidays in the last year by sending millions of e-mails advertising an e-card link within the text of the spam e-mail. Valentine's Day has been identified as the next target.

Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender. Do not open any unsolicited e-mail and do not click on any links provided."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Friends don't let friends install RealPlayer

It's not the first time RealPlayer has been accused of underhanded privacy invading practices, and it may not be the last. In my opinion there's really no reason to have the application on your system. Opt instead for standards compliant media players that won't deliver ads or spy on your Internet usage patterns.

We find that RealPlayer 10.5 is badware because it fails to accurately and completely disclose the fact that it installs advertising software on the user's computer. We additionally find that RealPlayer 11 is badware because it does not disclose the fact that it installs Rhapsody Player Engine software, and fails to remove this software when RealPlayer is uninstalled.

For video I really like VLC media player . . . a free cross platform format agnostic player that can just about do it all.

For audio I suggest the bare-bones system resource friendly FooBar2000. It's footprint on your system is so low that you can generally use it to play your music in the background even when playing resource heavy games without glitching or causing any performance degradation. It will decode almost all of the current music formats, including my current favorite high definition FLAC file sound files -- a non-lossy open source compression method that lets complex music be heard without the distortion inherent in MP3's.

FooBar2000's UI is not terribly pretty looking, but it does what it's supposed to do very well, including the somewhat unique option to channel your music digitally directly to high end sound cards -- bypassing the Windows API's -- thus preserving the signal path and enhancing performance for those with golden ears. It's also one of the best mass tagger editors for MP3's in existence, so you can fix the labels on entire albums with one broad stroke instead of having to repeat and rinse for every track.

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