Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year Resolutions

New Year Eve London 2008  (Fireworks)Image by T@H!R - طاھر via Flickr
As I write this the New Year is almost upon us. Now is the time we normally make our New Year resolutions. What will yours be and will any of them have anything to do with computers? Well. they should! Here is my shortlist of resolutions we should all have for 2010:

  1. Back up your files! If your computer crashes, your hard disk fails, your pc gets a bad dose of viruses or if your laptop gets stolen, will you ever get your files back? Only if you back them up.
  2. Keep your computer secure - if you own a pc that runs Microsoft Windows XP/Vista or 7 then you need up-to-date security software.
  3. Be better organised - that one applies especially to me!
These are my top tips for your pc - related resolutions for 2010. I have a host of others but if you focus on these three and do them well you will avoid a whole bunch of problems in the year ahead.

To give yourself every chance of success, plan ahead. Taking each one in turn, lets look at some ways of making a success of them.

  1. Backing up your files.
Computers start off with what seems infinite storage - gigabytes of space. Very soon though we find ourselves filling up all that space with photographs, videos and documents. Computers also seem to fill up lots of it with temporary files, especially if we browse the internet a lot. Before we get to that dreaded warning message saying that we have ‘insufficient space’ we need to plan ahead. Even if you have just a few documents, if you were to lose them would it matter? If the answer is yes, you need to back them up before that happens.

So, what are the options?

i)                Back up to a second, external hard disk. Portable ones now come in good sizes for less than £50.

ii)        Back up to CD-ROM (DVD or Blu-Ray) - most computers come with a CD drive. If its has CD-RW or DVD-RW on it you can use it to backup your files to blank discs.

iii)        Back up to USB flash drives - these are small, very portable, come in good sizes (I recommend 8GB or bigger) and cost @ £20.

iv)        Online storage - you can get at least 2GB for free from several places - I recommend www.humyo.com, http://www.getdropbox.com/ and www.skydrive.live.com

v)                For photos and video you can use sites like www.picasaweb.google.com and www.www.flickr.com/ to store your images and videos for free.

I recommend combination of all of these and use them myself. However, I do recommend that you get an external hard drive to completely back up your hard disk as an emergency backup that you can use to completely restore everything in one go if the worst happens.

If you go to http://www.downloadsquad.com/2008/09/05/5-free-apps-to-clone-your-hard-drive/ you will find 5 free apps for doing this and tips you can use to do it the right way. The benefit of doing this is that you caned a restore a lot quicker than the normal way most folk do it if disaster strikes - reinstalling Windows, all their software (if they can find the discs and serial numbers) and then all their files (documents, photos, videos etc). Believe me that can take days! Cloning your drive means it can all take just a few hours. Much better and far less stressful.

  1. Computer security
Sadly the world is full of people who, mainly for criminal gain, want nothing more than for you to have an insecure computer so they can take it over, steal your passwords for online accounts (especially bank accounts), and hopefully steal your identity. Why make it easy for them... why not make it impossible? So, how to do this and do it for free? Here’s how:

i)        Go to www.download.com and click on the link for “Security Software” under “Categories” (its on the left scroll down a bit). This will take you to a page of free apps you can download to protect your computer. I recommend http://download.cnet.com/avast-home-edition-free/3000-2239_4-10019223.html, http://download.cnet.com/Avira-AntiVir-Personal-Free-Antivirus/3000-2239_4-10322935.html and http://download.cnet.com/malwarebytes-anti-malware/3000-8022_4-10804572.html to start off with. Choose one of the first two (either Avast or AntiVir) and the last one.

ii)         Use Firefox and ditch Internet Explorer. Go to www.mozilla.com/firefox/ and download the latest version. Its more secure than IE. Once installed, be sure to download add-ons. You need to go to the ‘Tools’ menu and once there click on the ‘Browse all add-ons’ link. I recommend WOT from https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3456 and NoScript from https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/722 as starters.

iii)        Email security - I’ve said it many times before but its worth saying again. Never ever click on links in emails that claim to be from your bank! Your bank or financial institution will never ask you to click on a link in an email to re-enter your password etc for your account. Only criminals do that.

Also, if you get an email claiming to be from someone (even proclaiming themselves to be a Christian) and they want your help to distribute money (usually millions!) to good causes, I can guarantee t a total lie! Just delete them. Never believe the heart-rending tale they spin about some good person having died and not leaving a will etc.

In addition, if you get one of those annoying chain-letter type emails just bin them too. They are a waste of bandwidth, time and may well include viruses etc. Just delete them.

Other hoaxes include sob stories asking fro prayer and asking you to forward the email to everyone in your address book - they are a scam and you should just bin them. If you want to bother checking them out go here: http://uk.trendmicro.com/uk/threats/enterprise/glossary/s/scams-and-shams/index.php

Finally, when sending emails do not put everyone’s email address into the ‘send to’ box. Put just one address there (the main person you are sending it to) and then put everyone else’s into the bcc box (blind copy). This way you will avoid sending everyone’s email address to everyone else. Think of it like this... would like someone who writes to someone whom you don’t know tell that person your address? Thought not but so many of us do that with emails. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean they want everyone you to know know them too. That’s what Facebook is for!

  1. Becoming better organised!
We all wish we were and how many of us have read any number of books claiming to help us to this? We all know it would be good to be better organised, but somehow we never seem to get around to it. Well, here is how I am intending (hoping!) to go about this year.

i)        To start with I am going to delete files I no longer need when I have finished with them. So often we keep everything on our computers, thinking that we have unlimited space and that we never know when we might need it again. Truth is, 90% of what we have on our computers will never be needed again, ever! Trust me on this... I use computers and the internet everyday (too much of the time, if I am being honest) and I save everything. Over the years (18 years and counting) I have saved so many files and yet 99% of them I have never opened again!

ii)        Printing - I am going to print things off the internet or in emails only if I really need a hard copy. Most things we can safely delete after we have finished with and if we need to keep them, well just keep the email or downloaded document. If you back up (see above) then you will have a copy for safety anyway and you can forget about printing a copy off.

iii)        Databases - these are great for storing information that might otherwise get lost on our computers. I am going to use one to keep track of everything in one place. I am actually writing this in one, strange as that might seem. Its an application called MacJournal and is a sort of ‘freeform’ database. I can store documents, web links etc in it and do a search for anything in it. I’ll let you know how I get on. For those of you who don’t have a Mac, there are alternatives - try Bitlets 2.2.3.16 from http://www.softpedia.com/get/Office-tools/Text-editors/Bitlets.shtml and Remlap KnowledgeBase 2.21 from http://download.cnet.com/Remlap-KnowledgeBase/3000-2074_4-10443935.html?tag=mncol

So, I hope that these tips will help you make and keep your computer-related New Year Resolutions. Now something for a bit f fun, a quote or two on the topic of New Year Resolutions:

“The man who will not execute his resolutions when they are fresh upon him can have no hope from them afterwards; they will be dissipated, lost and perish in the hurry and scurry of the world, or sunk in the slough of indolence” Marie Edgeworth

“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right”. Oprah Winfrey

“He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool.” F.M. Knowles

Take care and every blessing in 2010.



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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Glide OS 4.0 Cloud Computing Solution

Glide OS Screenshot
Glide OS 4.0 is a comprehensive Ad-Free cloud computing solution. Escape from the daily barrage of online floating, pop up, banner and streaming ads and email spam. In addition to providing you with an ad-free alternative, you get more storage, more features and more control over how you share your private information and personal files.

Glide is a free suite of rights-based productivity and collaboration applications with 20GBs of storage. Setup and administer up to six family member accounts including child accounts from your Glide settings panel. The Glide OS provides automatic file and application compatibility across devices and operating systems. With Glide OS you also get the Glide Sync App which helps you to synchronize your home and work files.

You can even use Glide on virtually any mobile phone with a browser. To access Glide on your mobile go to http://www.GlideMobile.com.

More info on Glide can be found at http://www.glideos.com/whatisglide.html

Read a review by Ross M Greenberg on the internet evolution blog at http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=841&doc_id=185530&

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

humyo SmartDrive


Want to automatically backup your photos or files? Have access to your digital stuff anytime, anywhere? Or maybe share your photos directly from your desktop. You can with humyo SmartDrive.
humyo SmartDrive includes automatic file sync/backup for complete peace-of-mind and a virtual drive providing easy access to your online files directly from your desktop.

Who are humyo?

Based in the UK and with offices in Germany, France and the Czech Republic, humyo is Europe's largest independent online storage provider. Currently, more than 400,000 users around the world choose humyo to store over 100 million files. Users are safe in the knowledge that their files are protected by bank grade encryption. Files are stored on servers within an ex Bank of England vault in Manchester - one of the biggest data centres of its kind in Europe. Privately funded and backed by leading technology investment firm, Oakley Capital Corporate Finance, the humyo online storage solution is hosted by its sister company, GX Networks, the UK's largest web site hosting network.
Humyo.png

Proven technology

Humyo has recently been awarded the following prestigious titles:
  • Micro Mart Group Test Winner
  • WebUser Gold Award
  • Personal Computer World Editor's Choice
  • Computer Shopper Best Buy
  • Chip Magazine Test Winner

Easy to use

With over two years in development, the humyo online storage solution has been built around the ethos that users should be able to access, backup and share their files with the minimum of fuss.
With award-winning drag and drop technology, the humyo solution seamlessly integrates into your desktop environment making it possible to access your files whether you're online or offline.
For complete peace of mind, humyo provides premium and business users with UK-based telephone and email support for the duration of the subscription period.

In-house developers

Employing a team of leading in-house software developers, humyo continuously invests in state of the art technology to ensure that consumers and businesses can continue to securely share and backup their digital content online.

Free accounts get 10GB (but have to upgrade after 14 days to benefit from the SmartDrive application). Premium home users get 100GB for £4.59 pcm or £45.99 pa (effectively 2 months free). Note: These are inclusive of 15% VAT so prices might change when VAT returns to 17.5% in 2010.
Business users can choose the 25GB of collaborative storage per user for £9.00 pcm / £99.00 pa exc. VAT.

There are other options too, such as upgrading number of users (extra £4.95 pcm exc. VAT, including an additional 25GB space) or £9.99 for an extra 100GB.

Check it out here: http://www.humyo.com/pages/en/online-file-storage


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Friday, December 04, 2009

Intel Labs has created an experimental “Single-chip Cloud Computer,”

Single-chip Cloud computer
Intel has created what it calls the “Single-chip Cloud Computer”. At this stage its just experimental but indicates the future roadmap for Intel's processors. It incorporates technologies intended to scale multi-core processors to 100 cores and beyond, such as an on-chip network, advanced power management technologies and support for “message-passing.”

Architecturally, the chip resembles a cloud of computers integrated into silicon. The novel many-core architecture includes innovations for scalability in terms of energy-efficiency including improved core-core communication and techniques that enable software to dynamically configure voltage and frequency to attain power consumptions from 125W to as low as 25W.

This represents the latest achievement from Intel’s Tera-scale Computing Research Program. The research was co-led by Intel Labs Bangalore, India, Intel Labs Braunschweig, Germany and Intel Labs researchers in the United States.

The name “Single-chip Cloud Computer” reflects the fact that the architecture resembles a scalable cluster of computers such as you would find in a cloud, integrated into silicon.
The research chip features:
  • 24 “tiles” with two IA cores per tile
  • A 24-router mesh network with 256 GB/s bisection bandwidth
  • 4 integrated DDR3 memory controllers
  • Hardware support for message-passing


Intel Labs announces Single-chip Cloud Computing experimental chip

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