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Monday, May 31, 2010

About Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) Retirement

I am posting this from Florida where I have been visiting with my daughter Isabel.
We are having a great time, (she lives near Orlando), where there are so many things to do, that your days are always full...

I received today an e-mail from PCWorld which I think will be of great interest for those of you who are still using Windows XP and do not plan to change to other versions.

Mr. Gregg Keizer writes:


Half of the enterprise computers running the aged Windows XP operating system are still relying on the soon-to-be-retired Service Pack 2 (SP2), a researcher said today.According to security risk and compliance management provider Qualys, 50% of the several hundred thousand PCs it monitors for its clients are still running Windows XP2.
"The normal thing for IT is not to muck around with something that works," said Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer for Qualys, as he tried to explain why corporations have stuck with 2004's SP2 and not updated to SP3, which debuted two years ago .

Microsoft will officially retire Windows XP SP2 on July 13. After that date, although it will continue to provide security updates for XP SP3, it will stop issuing patches for the older SP2.

"I would expect that come August, SP2 will be getting hard and harder to defend," said Kandek, referring to the lack of security updates. "I expect to see reliable exploits of unpatched vulnerabilities three or four months later."

Companies have stepped up their efforts to migrate machines to XP SP3 in the last 11 months -- the rate of adoption of the newest service pack during that period was roughly double that of SP3's first 14 months of availability -- but even now, just weeks before SP2 will slide off support, half of the Windows XP systems still run the older edition, according to Qualys.

"I think this simply flew under the radar of most IT professionals," said Kandek, talking about the July retirement of XP SP2. "Personally, I didn't know about it until two months ago. I don't think many people were looking at the [retirement] messages Microsoft was putting out."

Microsoft started warning customers of XP SP2's looming retirement last February, and has been repeating that warning every month in its Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) blog on Patch Tuesday, the regularly-scheduled second-Tuesday-of-the-month security update release day. But not every user reads the MSRC blog.

Windows XP SP3 will exit all support in April 2014; to receive vulnerability fixes, users must update to that service pack by July.

By Qualys' numbers, Windows XP accounts for approximately 80% of all enterprise PCs, a considerably higher share than estimated by Web metrics companies such as NetApplications, which pegged XP's share in April at 63.4% . NetApplications, however, calculates usage share globally -- Qualys' is predominantly U.S. -- and factors in consumers as well as businesses.

Microsoft has made some minor concessions on Windows XP SP2 support. Last month, it said it would take calls from customers running outdated service packs, such as SP2. Previously, it turned those people away.

Instead, Microsoft's support staff will answer questions about old service packs, fill out support tickets and provide what the company's head of support called "limited troubleshooting."
The new support for obsolete service packs isn't free, however. Companies or customers without an in-place Microsoft support plan will be billed on a per-incident rate. A consumer contacting Microsoft support via chat or e-mail, for example, is charged $49, while telephone-based support costs $59.

Windows XP SP3 can be downloaded from the Microsoft site, or obtained from XP SP2 PCs via the Windows Update service.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about windows in Computerworld's Windows Topic Center.



My advice to those of you who have not downloaded SP3:

Do it ASAP.

George Freire

Saturday, May 22, 2010

HAVE FUN WITH MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

Yesterday a friend if mine sent me an e-mail with the title "Mission Impossible".

This is so funny that I had to show the video to you all.

It has nothing to do with computers or subjects that we mostly discuss on this blog, but I am sure you all will laugh your hearts out when you see it. (How did they train a squirrel to do this "Mission"?):


Have fun,

George Freire

video

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The most common computer problem people ask me about

Dear visitors to this blog,

I spend a lot of time, (and enjoy it!), in writing stuff for this blog and finding interesting computer related items in other publications that may be of interest to all of you.

I also spend time helping mostly friends and other people they refer me to, around the area where I live, Chapin in South Carolina.

Can you guess what are the most common problems most people have when they ask for my help?

It should not be difficult to guess: "George, my computer runs so slow", or "my computer freezes for no reason", "my hard drive stopped working and I lost all my files", "I can't connect to my printer", "it takes 15 20 minutes for the computer to boot!" etc. etc.

Most of the above problems could be avoided or at least simplified if such computers would be handled with more care. A lot of people think that computers run forever and follow the principle that "as long as it ain't broke don't try to interfere with it...".

This is bad, very bad. First of all you all should believe that ALL computers, (for sure), some day will break up due to hard drive problems, viruses and spyware infections, power surges, power supply failures, etc. etc.

HOWEVER, if you handle your computer with care, (later on I'll cover what care really means), computers can last a long time and in some cases even be upgraded to the latest,(or close to it), technology available. Take for instance my wife's computer,(which of course is taken care of by me), it is about 5 years old, runs like new, has been upgraded with more RAM memory, Windows 7, and I am now contemplating installing a new 1 TB hard drive.

Let's now talk about what computer care means:

-Fight infections from viruses, malicious spyware, trojans and other invasive malware.
-Reduce atart-up programs that load automatically every time you boot the computer.
-Free hard drive space by eliminating programs that you do not use, or were loaded without you ever noticing.
-Delete on a regular basis temporary Internet files, other temporary files, cookies etc.
-Defrag your hard drive on a regular basis.
-Check for malicious programs like spyware, spam, viruses etc.
-Install more RAM memory, at least up to 4 MB. RAM memory is so cheap today that this is a must.If you have 64 bit Windows 7 you can use as much RAM memory as you can afford, but for any other version of Windows, including 32 bit W7, no point in going over 4 MB RAM, because Windows will not recognize it.
-BACK UP your important files or better still make a mirror copy of you hard drive.
-Keep you computer clean and free of dust that accumulates on the cooling fans openings and inside the computer case.

The above are some of the most important steps most computer owners can easily take care of. If you take care of those I can assure you that your computer will run much better than it does now, and it will last much longer also.

There are many utility programs that can be used to correct all of the problems outlined above. Many are free for the taking, others have to be paid for.

I have made available on this blog, many of these utility programs, which can be downloaded and installed, by just clicking on web addresses also outlined on these pages.

THEY ARE ALL STILL AVAILABLE BY JUST VISITING THE POSTS PUBLISHED SINCE THE BIRTH OF THIS BLOG IN DECEMBER 2008.

All you have to do is scroll down to older posts or check the roster of posts outlined on the left column of the opening page.

Here is a list of the most popular and best utility programs you can find here, that will help you keep your computer in top shape:

-Ashampoo Win Optimiser
-CCleaner
-Advanced System Care
-Disk Keeper
-Free Fixer
-Registry Mechanic
-Defraggler
-Startups-all
-Ad Aware
-Spybot
-Fences
-Speccy
-Starup Delayer
-Avira Antivirus
-Clamwin Antivirus

And many more...

By the way, if you have a problem finding any of the above on the blog, all you have to do is google the name, and for sure you'll find the proper web address to download whatever you are looking for.

I will be glad to help you use all of the above or give you more recommendations, all you have to do is ask me.

George Freire

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Comments on a question posed by my friend Harry Studley.

My friend Harry Studley has a question, which I think hits a subject that is of interest for most of the readers of this blog.

He said:

"Hey George..
lately my notebook (vista 32bit w/dual/core pentium) has been running a good bit slower than in the past. I have used oi bit, ashampoo etc. to perhaps clean it up a bit, with no success.. I went through the config utility and found a ton of "services" most "running" and some "stopped". also in the startup tab there are a LARGE number of pgms. I don't recognize, most from MS but others from various authors.. My Q is: Is there a proscribed/recommended set of "start-up"/"services" settings? I suspect this plethora of things running consuming resources may be the culprit.. What do you think ??
best;

Harry S "


OK Harry, here is my response:

There are many reasons why a computer can run slow, and the longer you use your computer and if you do not take steps to clean it up: defrag the hard drive, restore the registry, check for viruses, spam etc. etc. :

One thing for sure will happen, everything will slow down.

Harry, I don't know what version of Ashampoo you have, but I would upgrade to at least version 6 or 7 which is now available, but I'll get back to this in a moment.

You say you ran msconfig and looked at the tab "services". I suggest you do not mess with that section in the msconfig because it does not tell you whether each service is needed or important and if you deactivate by chance a service that is required, you can get yourself in all kinds of trouble.

The tab under msconfig that tells you which programs automatically run when you turn your computer on is the "start up tab". Here you can deactivate programs that you don't want to start automatically. As you install new programs, most of them install themselves to start up automatically, that being the reason why they show under that "start up tab". You must be careful when you deactivate a program, if you don't know what it is. (It is kinda confusing when you look at the list of all programs that start up automatically).

There is a web site that explains what all these programs are, (showing the exact addresses that pop up under the start up tab), whether you can or should deactivate each one, (some of them are spam or viruses etc.). This site has thousands of entries, all shown alphabetically, therefore you can get to them fast.

Once you find what the program stands for, then you can deactivate it knowing that it is OK.

The address for this very helpful web site is as follows:

http://www.fairnet.org/agencies/startup_list/startups_all.htm

Now getting back to Ashampoo:

Go to tab "Modules", select "Optimize Performance" go to "Startup Tuner" and click on it. This section basically does the same as "msconfig" but a lot better because it tells you in detail what the programs and services are.

There are two very important sub selections: "Auto Start" and "Services".

If you click "Auto Start" it shows you all the programs that are started automatically, however you can see where they can be found in your hard drive. Each program has a small square box which is either checked, (on) or unchecked, (off). You can then make your selection of the programs that should be on or off.

If you click "Services" it shows you a list of the services that are "started", "manual" or "disabled".
As you click on each service, it tells you what it does, whether it is required and a recommendation whether you can disable it, start it or put it on manual modes.


Harry, another important matter that can run the computer to a snail's pace is fragmentation. There is a great free defragmentation program, "Defraggler"

http://www.piriform.com/speccy

Please read my post of May 11 that refers to the above Web address:

PIRIFORM WEB PAGE AND ITS GREAT FREE PROGRAMS

Download and use Defraggler as well as CClear and you'll do OK.

Finally, there are two other programs that will clean up all your spy programs, spam etc. They are well known: Ad Aware and Spybot. They are free and can be downloaded just by Googling the names and finding the proper addresses.

If all of the above did not help, call me and we will talk more about your problems.

George Freire















Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SKYORB PROGRAM SOFTWARE

Friends,

I have been a little under the weather for the last two weeks, with a sinus infection that is driving me nuts.

I'm a little better but not quite well yet, this being the reason why not many posts have been done lately...

The following program is very neat especially for those of you who enjoy space exploration, astronomy and anything related to this Universe of ours, the program is a lot of fun:

From any location in space, this freebie calculates the positions of planets, sun, and moon, as well as the rise and set times of the object's satellites. SkyOrb quickly does 3D rendering of views from space, including solar and lunar eclipses, solstices and equinoxes. Very cool.

Steve Bass, PC World


http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_download/fid,67771-order,4-c,simulation/download.html


Click on the above address and have a good time.

George Freire

FOXIT READER

Today I have another program that I am sure you all will love. It is free and very fast as compared with ADOBE Reader:

FOXIT READER
VIEW, PRINT & ANNOTATE ANY PDF

Foxit’s NO BLOAT PDF Reader
Small download, fast, accurate rendering
Take it with you with low cost mobile readers for your phone or PDA.
As a small and fast PDF viewer, Foxit Reader currently has over 90 million users all around the world. Now, Foxit Reader 3.3 has been released and and added the Secure Trust Manager that enables users to allow or deny unauthorized actions and data transmission, including URL connection, attachments PDF actions, and JavaScript functions; efficiently avoiding the attack from malicious content and viruses.

In order to download and install this helpful program go to:

http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/



Clock on the above or copy and paste to your browser.



I am using both ADOBE and FOXIT Reader, but there is no doubt that FOXIT is as fast as a fox ...



Enjoy,



George Freire

PIRIFORM WEB PAGE AND ITS GREAT FREE PROGRAMS

Friends,

One more for the day:

I have in the past referred to this web site "PIRIFORM",

http://www.piriform.com/speccy

which is a source of great programs that have been recommended in my blog such as CCLEANER, DEFRAGGLER and RECUVA .

If you clock the above address you will be able to download the three programs referred to above, but a new one "SPECCY" which is an advanced System Information tool for your PC. "PIRIFORM" just published a Final Release version of this software.

"SPECCY" is of great usefulness to all computer users because it will tell you in a matter of seconds everything about your computer:specifications, detailed hardware configuration,all the important components in your computer,speed ratings,component temperatures, (if your computer comes with the proper sensors in the mother board, which is pretty common in new computers),model numbers and info required if you are seeking tech support, etc. etc.



I hope you'll have enough stuff to play with for the next few days.



George Freire

Saturday, May 1, 2010

7-Zip compression/de-compression Program

This week-end we will talk about a free and very useful zip compression program as good or better than those you'll have to pay for.

Its name is 7-Zip which description follows:

"You can compress and decompress .zip format archive files using Windows' own built-in capabilities, but that's limited. Or you can use a commercial program like WinZip that's packed with all sorts of goodies, but you have to pay for it. Or you can use 7-Zip, which gives you a couple of the most important features for free. It's available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

For instance, 7-Zip can compress and decompress WinZip-compatible AES-encrypted .zip files. That's vital if you need to e-mail sensitive data, because the .zip format's standard password protection (the only kind Windows supports) is easy to crack. But with 7-Zip, you can share truly-secure data with people who use WinZip, PKZip, WinRar, PowerArchiver, and other programs. And if they use none of those programs and don't want to spend money, you can tell them to get 7-Zip.

7-Zip also allows you to compress and e-mail files in one easy step. Just right-click a file or files in Windows Explorer and select 7-Zip¸ then Compress and email. It even has its own compression format, although I recommend sticking to .zip for compatibility purposes.

This isn't to say that 7-Zip will satisfy every WinZip fan. It can't compress a .zip into an .exe. And the user interface is plain, dull, and unattractive. It can also be intimidating, offering options that most users should never have to think about.

But you don't have to. The default settings are just fine. For most compression tasks, 7-Zip does the job.

Note: This software comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. This is the 32-bit version. If your 64-bit PC is running a 64-bit OS, please download the 64-bit version instead.

--Lincoln Spector, PC World"


To download go to:

http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_download/fid,62605-order,4-c,compression/download.html

It is easy to install and works really well.

I hope you'll enjoy it because if you are like me, you'll handle a lot of zipped files, either to unzip or zip them as required.

Have a good week-end,

George Freire