- Cool Websites and Tools [June 19th]
- A History Of Computer Viruses & The Worst Ones of Today [In Case You Were Wondering]
- How To Completely Restore Your Windows Computer To Factory Settings
- Basic Computer Terms You Should Know Before Buying A PC
- AnyBizSoft PDF to Word Converter Giveaway Winners
- Pluggio – A Great Online Twitter Client For Netbook Users
Posted: 19 Jun 2010 08:31 PM PDT
These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.
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Posted: 19 Jun 2010 06:31 PM PDT
They weren’t. These modern marvels which are no force of nature have only been around for about 50 years, and every one of them is created by a human coder. Some do it for thrills, some do it for cash and some do it out of sheer boredom; all of them annoy the vast majority of computer users greatly.
Like most inventions, viruses have a history. Let’s take a look at the history of computer viruses and where the modern computer virus came from.
1944: In Theory
John von Neumann – the brilliant mathematician who helped bring us nuclear energy, game theory and quantum theory’s operating mechanics – theorized about the existence of computer viruses as early 1944. In a series of lectures called “Theory of self-reproducing automata” von Neumann contemplated the difference between computers and the human mind, and also about the possibility of self-relicating computer code.
Considering the modern computer virus is, essentially, self-replicating computer code adds to von Neumann’s impressive academic achievements, as such code is commonplace today.
Early 1960’s: The Creeper
One of the first viruses in history came over 20 years after von Neumann’s talks, and was called “Creeper.” This program managed to crawl its way around computer networks in the early 60’s via the ARPANET, an early precursor to the Internet.
So what damage did Creeper do to computers it infected? None, unless you count displaying the text “I’m the Creeper, catch me if you can!” damage. You could say it was more playful than anything, but it was a powerful proof of concept.
By 1974 there were already harmful viruses in the wild: Wabit was a virus that would replicate itself again and again until all system resources of a machine were utilized, crashing the machine entirely.
1982: Elk Clone
But such viruses couldn’t affect too many machines in a world where computers where uncommon and ran a wide variety of operating systems. Apple computers changed both those things in the late 70s, and by the early 80s the Apple computer was in thousands of households.
This, of course, opened the way for viruses to really spread. A program called Elk Cloner, written by a 15-year-old, spread itself via floppy disks. Like Creeper it really didn’t do a lot of damage; it would occasionally display a poem taunting the end-user and simply spread itself.
Rich Skrenta, the virus’s creater, called it “some dumb little practical joke.” That may have been so to him, but viruses would soon grow far beyond that.
The 1980s would see viruses appear for all the major platforms including IBM, Amiga, and even BSD UNIX. The diversity of computer operating systems on the market prevented viruses from spreading too quickly, however. That would change in the 90s.
1990’s: Windows Monoculture
Jump forward to 1995 and the vast majority of computers on the planet are running Microsoft Windows. This makes computers accessible to a larger number of people than ever before, but also creates a mono-culture in which viruses spread very quickly.
Another thing happened around this time that also helped viruses become commonplace: the birth of the modern Internet. The web changed the way we communicate, but also changed the way viruses spread. No longer contained on floppy discs, viruses could spread themselves very quickly in the Internet age.
By 1995 macro viruses began spreading via Microsoft Word. The sheer number of computer users with Microsoft Outlook installed meant viruses could spread quickly via email. Even instant messaging was compromised. Peer to peer networks like Napster, Limewire and Bittorrent all became common ways for viruses to spread as well.
Essentially any way information can travel can be utilized by viruses. In 2006 some iPods were even sold with viruses on them.
A seemingly eternal fight between virus creators and companies providing protection from viruses is still taking place. Viruses are significantly less common today as security improves, but still not completely eliminated.
The vast majority of viruses today infect the Windows operating system. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that Windows is by far the most common platform, meaning it is by far the platform most vulnerable to infection. Beyond this, however, alternative systems such as Linux and Mac OS X are less vulnerable to viruses because they lack a single registry and have stricter policies regarding what the user can and can’t edit without administrative rights.
The Worst Of Today
As with any sector of technology, viruses are always evolving. One of the fastest moving viruses today is Virus.Win32.Virut.ce, according to a recent article at SecureList. This virus is particularly good at inserting itself into software on your computer in such a way that it is difficult to remove.
There are always new viruses appearing “in the wild.” If you want to read about them as they come out, I highly recommend you check out Securelist.
If you want to read more about the history of computer viruses, I recommend Wikipedia’s fascinating timeline about computer viruses history or Snopes’ list of virus hoaxes and realities.
In the early days viruses were written for fun. Today viruses don’t seem that fun, particularly to someone with corrupted data. You can protect yourself, however. Check out out list of the top ten free antivirus programs for Windows.
Do you have any cool stories from the early history of computer viruses? Please share in the comments below! Please also share if you have anything to add to the admittedly brief history of viruses outlined above. Knowledge may not spread as quickly as a computer virus but it is far more useful. Share it below.
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Posted: 19 Jun 2010 03:31 PM PDT
There may come a time in your computer ownership that you decide to basically hit the reset button.
Whatever your situation, this guide will help you completely restore your computer to absolutely pristine factory settings.
Step 1: Save Files & Folders
Depending on your version of Windows and the recovery system your computer’s vendor uses, some of your settings and files may be saved when you restore your computer to factory settings. However, it is best not to rely on this.
Treat your restoration to factory settings the same as you would a complete re-format of your hard drive. Assume all data will be lost and back up all crucial information to an external hard drive. Don’t bother backing up programs you can reinstall, but make sure to back up everything you don’t already have a copy of.
Also, make sure that you back up your browser information. The help website of the web browser you use should provide instructions on how to back up your browser. If you don’t do this you will lose all of your bookmarks and saved passwords.
Step 2: Start The Recovery Program
There are two common methods for returning your operating system to factory settings. One of these is to simply reinstall the operating system through the operating system’s own repair or reinstall process. With Windows this usually requires access to a Windows installation CD or the creation of a boot CD. If you have this available, you can refer to our guide on how to re-install Windows.
However, most computer vendors no longer ship out a copy of the Windows installation CD with their computers. Instead, the computer ships with a recovery partition or recovery disk. Each vendor uses their own particular type of solution, but the basics of them are the same. The most common names used by each company for their recovery solution can be found below. Note that manufacturers do change names from time to time – usually it will simply be something with the vendor’s brand name and the word “recovery” included after it.
You can start the recovery program from within Windows. Alternatively – if perhaps your computer is having problems booting into Windows – you can usually access the recovery partition during your computer’s boot cycle. Pay attention to the display when your computer boots. There should be text indicating what button you need to press to start the recovery process. Typically, it will be a function key.
Step 3: Restoring To Factory Settings
Each vendor has their own recovery solution, so there is no way to provide a definitive guide to each and every vendor within the scope of this article. However, the general process of restoration almost always works like this.
Step 4: Finishing Restoration
Ideally, the factory restoration wizard will completely restore everything needed to make your computer fully functional. However, in some situations you may find that a few drivers were not installed. For example, you might find that the screen brightness buttons no longer work on your laptop.
If you run into this problem you’ll need to download the drivers for your computer, which can be found on the vendor’s support website. You can either enter the serial number of your computer to obtain the proper drivers or you can find your model of computer yourself.
Once you have downloaded the appropriate drivers and installed them your system will be returned to its original factory settings. It will work just as it did the day that you bought it.
Do you have any experiences – good or bad – about restoring computers back to their factory settings? Do you have any tips or advice you would like to share with us? If so, head towards the comments below.
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Posted: 19 Jun 2010 12:30 PM PDT
The terminology used below is the same for PCs and Macs and for desktops and laptops. If you have any doubts about the machine you are buying – don't buy it! Go and do some research online to see if you can do better. We actually have a couple of desktop and laptop recommendations, check then out if you’re in doubt.
When you are looking to buy a computer you will hear basic computer terms like the following:
This is the brain of your computer. It can also be referred to as the CPU. Processors come in many different varieties. Processor speed is measured in gigahertz or GHz. The higher GHz the faster the computer.
I am now using a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core. Processors can also have dual or quad cores. This is essentially two or four processors in one respectively. The more cores the better but they will also be more expensive. We will also see terms like Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, and i7. It is important to know the differences between these options.
The Core Duo was the first dual core processor. It consists of two cores on one die but the Core 2 Duo is a more modern processor that is found in a lot of new PCs. The Core 2 Duo has two dies. Then the i3 processor is a recent release by Intel for new low-end machines. Then the i5 and i7 are used with quad core processors and higher-end machines. The i7 is the top of this line and obviously the most expensive.
There are different brands of processors like Intel or AMD and different levels of processors like the Pentium 4 or the Atom. The Atom processor is a much slower processor used in netbooks.
Also when looking for a system you will see terms like Front Side Bus. This is not a big yellow bus. It is the speed that data can flow from the processor to the motherboard. The higher the FSB, the faster the processor can communicate with your machine. Something in the area of 266-333MHz is fine and some faster processors sport up to 400MHz FSB.
The RAM or memory is what your computer uses to temporarily store information while you are using the computer. This can also be referred to as Random Access Memory. I personally would not buy a computer with less than 2GB of RAM. Your RAM Bus speed will need to be identical to your FSB speed as to not create bottlenecks. In a pre-built system this is not something you need to worry about but if you are building your own system then you will want to get memory that matches the FSB speed divided by the number of cores that you have. For example, if your system has a total FSB of 1600 and you have 4 cores (quad) then your RAM Bus speed should be 400MHz.
The optical drive in your computer should be able to read and write CDs and DVDs. If you have not purchased a computer in a while, some of the newer options might seem strange to you. You can have any one of these or a combination of these formats: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-/+R, DVD-/+RW, DVD-RAM, Blu-ray, HD-DVD. A CD holds 700MB. A CD-R can read and write to a CD. A CDRW can read write and rewrite to a CD.
If you are getting a DVD burner you should try and get a drive that writes in all formats such as +R or -R. They will all play in your computer but some other hardware might require one of these formats. A DVD can hold about 4GB of data. A DVD burner that allows you to burn a DL or dual layer disc will allow for double the capacity and can fit about 8GB of data on it.
Then we see the newer formats like Blu-ray and HD-DVD that allow you to burn and watch high definition videos or store even more data. A Blu-ray disk can hold a whopping 25GB in a single layer and 50GB if the disk is dual layered. HD-DVD disks can hold up to 15GB of data but I really do not see many systems or people using this format.
Wireless Network Card
If your computer has a wireless card, you will be able to access the Internet without a wire connecting you to a router/modem. Wireless cards are rated by their speed.
The lowest speed starts from A and goes up through N. You will want to buy a computer with a 802.11g or 802.11n wireless connection. 802.11a can hit about 1 Mbit/s and 802.11b can get to about 11 Mbit/s. When we get to 802.11g, we can see speeds of up to 54 Mbit/s. And with 802.11n the newest iteration of wireless we can achieve 600 Mbit/s. I am using a 802.11n router personally but most of my equipment and peripherials use 802.11g. I find this to be fine for streaming video or audio and transfering files over my home network. But if you are constantly transfering huge files or folders you might want to jump right into the 802.11n game.
Your computer should have an Ethernet port on it. This port will allow you to physically connect to the internet or your internal network by plugging it into your router/modem.
Normally any machine you will buy now has a Gigabit connection. Gigabit is represented as 100/1000 and there are also 10/100 connections. That number is how many megabits you can transfer per second.
This is the software that makes your computer go. You can buy a computer with the Mac OS X operating system or Windows 7 or any flavor of Ubuntu Linux as well.
You can also buy a computer without an operating system to install it yourself. This is the key part of your system as well as normally the most expensive. But, if you choose Ubuntu or another flavor of Linux then your operating system is free.
This is where you will store all your files whether it be music, movies or word documents. You will need a hard drive to store them on.
Hard drives are rated by size and speed. A typical new computer will come with a 7200 rpm SATA 100GB drive but this may vary. Laptop hard drives spin at a speed of 5400 rpm. The higher the rpm or rotations per minute, the faster you will be able to access the data on your drive. The 100GB drive will hold approximately 28,560 digital photos or up to 25,000 songs (MP3).
Older machines will have IDE drives. SATA and IDE drives have different connectors. On some newer machines, we can also opt for a SSD or Solid State Drive. The SSD has no moving parts and is less likely to fail and much quicker but it is also much more expensive.
If you need more space you should get a bigger drive or you can buy a portable USB hard drive to attach to your computer.
This is the part of your computer that allows you to show what you are doing. Without a video card, you would not be able to see what you are doing on your monitor.
Different video cards have different abilities like the option to use multiple monitors, have a HDMI output or even the ability to watch HD movies on your computer. This has never been important to me and I always take whatever is available.
Some video cards use part of your system’s RAM. You can avoid this by getting a video card with its own memory. A good brand is NVidia. Some computers also have integrated video cards as opposed to a seperate video card. I prefer a separate video card to an integrated one. But if an integrated card has all the features and memory you are looking for by all means go for it. The integrated option is almost always cheaper.
There are also computer components like the monitor, keyboard and mouse but we’re pretty sure that you’re familiar with those basic computer terms.
Now, you have a basic knowledge of what you are looking for start shopping around. The best deals are found online and it is a fact that a PC is much cheaper than a Mac unless you are building a Hackintosh! You could also build your own PC if you are feeling confident enough.
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Posted: 19 Jun 2010 10:00 AM PDT
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Posted: 19 Jun 2010 09:31 AM PDT
Pluggio is entirely web-based, which is great news for netbook users who don’t want to use up precious resources on a Twitter client. And as far as web-based clients are concerned, Pluggio certainly gives the other apps a run for their money. With the free version of Pluggio, you get 150 scheduled tweets and 1000 Twitter API calls per day. You can also add up to 5 different Twitter accounts to follow. Despite capping certain features in the free version, there are a lot of reasons to give Pluggio a try.
You can also add other Twitter users or lists, essentially bookmarking them for easy access.
One of our favourite Pluggio features is the ability to see which of your tweets have been retweeted and by who.
From any given tweet you can choose to reply to the person who tweeted it, or all people mentioned in it, follow or unfollow users, view profiles, and direct message the user. You can also add the tweet to your favourites, or a user to one of your lists.
When retweeting, you can choose to either edit or add your two cents to the tweet, or retweet verbatim using Twitter’s native retweet method.
One of the major criticisms of Twitter as a service has been how difficult it can sometimes be to follow a conversation, and sadly, Pluggio has not taken this into account, and this is probably the biggest drawback to using their service.
Information included on a user’s profile includes their bio, real name, number of friends and followers and the number of updates. One inaccurate piece of information that seems to be featured on all profiles is the date they joined – all defaulting to December 1969.
Tweeting from Pluggio is easy. Simply click the green speech bubble, and a small window will come up allowing you to type your tweet, shorten links, schedule your tweet, and choose what other services you want to update simultaneously. Another shortcoming is the inability to add pictures directly from within Pluggio.
With Ping.fm integration, Pluggio allows you to simultaneously send your update to other social networks such as Facebook, FriendFeed, Google Buzz and LinkedIn. Once you’ve entered your Ping.fm API, each service that has already been added to your Ping account will be available on Pluggio. You can choose to simultaneously update several services at the same time all the time, or on a case-by-case basis.
Scheduling tweets can be done in one of two ways.
You can add Tweets to a rolling schedule or schedule it for a specific time. The rolling schedule defaults to once every hour, every day of the week, but can be edited to suit your preferences.
Once you have your rolling schedule set up to suit your needs, any tweets you add to it will be listed with the times they are to be posted.
To schedule a tweet for a specific date and time, simply enter the details as shown in the screenshot below.
Pluggio can also suggest new people to follow based on certain criteria that you can choose in the settings. You can add filters of either specific keywords used in tweets, or tweets within a radius of a certain location. These results can be further narrowed down by restrictions on the number of followers/friends, when they last tweeted, or how old their account is.
You can also receive ‘unfollow suggestions,’ if being followed back is an issue that concerns you. All suggestions can also be delivered to you by email. Suggestions for free accounts are capped at 40 per day.
Another unique Pluggio feature is the ability to add RSS feeds from your favourite websites, or specific search terms on Yahoo or Google, and follow them right there alongside your tweets.
A list of the latest blog posts, or search results will be displayed, and from there you can schedule a tweet of the link, flag the story, edit and tweet or retweet instantly. It may not be instantly obvious how to remove an RSS feed or search term. Clicking the feed’s icon will allow you to edit or delete it. With the free version of Pluggio you can only add up to 5 RSS feeds or Google/Yahoo search feeds.
Additional features are the ability to search public timeline, manage your Twitter lists, and Pluggio also has a bookmarklet which you can drag to your bookmarks bar to quickly tweet links you visit in your browser. The site still has a bit of room for improvement, and with the introduction of a few of the missing essential features, it will become a true powerhouse for all your tweeting needs.
Be sure to also take a look at Mahendra’s article featuring 4 web-based Twitter clients that will also come in handy with netbook users.
Have you used Pluggio? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.
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