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TWT Newsletter, Issue #008 --, Software Stinkers and Great Gaming Tools
January 10, 2008
Welcome to January's TWT newsletter and a big "Happy New Year" to all our subscribers. I trust you all had a great time over the festive season and you're looking forward to another exciting year in the world of computing.
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1) My Five Least Favourite Windows Programs
My Five Least Favourite Windows Programs
At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we like to focus on telling you about the best software for your machine, but this month I decided to give you an insight into some of what I think is the worst. Below is a list of five PC applications that have caused me the most stress, lost time and lost data. Before I condemn these programs I should point out that this is based entirely on my own experiences. The problems and the bugs I found in these products may have been fixed since I used them and other peoples experience may vary. Right, with that out of the way, let the list commence!
5) Yahoo Go! For TV
Home theatre PC's are PC's that, instead of linking to a keyboard and mouse, are usually hooked up to the TV in your living room. This allows you to experience all the multimedia magic you normally get on your desktop from the comfort of your sofa. Of course, trying to use Windows while sitting on the couch isn't the most enjoyable experience, that is why special software has appeared to make using your PC on your television much more enjoyable. Microsoft have even got into the act, with Windows XP Media Centre edition and Windows Vista Media Centre (available on Home premium and Ultimate editions of Vista). There was also a program called Meedio, which offered a highly configurable and great looking home theatre PC experience. That is until the company suddenly announced that Yahoo had bought them out and that from now on Meedio would be called Yahoo Go! For TV. They also neglected to mention that Go! For TV would automatically lock you out if you lived outside of America. Since I live in the United Kingdom this rendered the software completely unusable.
After a year or more of waiting, it became clear that Yahoo were doing nothing with Go! For TV other than letting it stagnate. A disappointing end to a very promising piece of software. Why Yahoo felt the need to kill Meedio like this is anyone's guess.
The exact name of this software eludes me now, but back in the late 1990's there were dozens of these schemes around, just prior to the first big dot.com bubble bursting. The idea was simple, you surfed the internet and a little toolbar stayed on top of your browser constantly displaying adverts. Eventually, after watching enough adverts you would receive a cheque for all your hard earned surfing. Of course this lead to all sorts of scams and trickery, including 'fake surfing' programs which would move your mouse pointer and pretend to be you surfing away and watching your adverts. As the scams got more elaborate so did the counter-measures, until the little toolbar was eating away at the limited computer resources available in the late 90's. In the end, I un-installed the toolbar and gave up on the scheme, my earnings? Not a penny!
3) Norton Internet Security 2003
Norton Antivirus and Internet Security has a chequered history. The newest Norton 360 package has been receiving generally positive reviews. My horror story comes from the 2003 version of the software, which had a nasty habit of declaring genocide on your inbox. Use your computer long enough and a memory allocation error in the software would mean that Norton would start deleting each and every e-mail you received. To make matters worse, the 2003 edition of Norton antivirus was notoriously difficult to un-install and even after using the un-installation script provided by the program, my precious e-mail still continued to disappear.
In the end I cleansed my computer of Norton Internet Security 2003 completely and sent an e-mail to everyone in my address book explaining what had happened. Newer versions of Norton may be greatly improved but for me, once bitten twice shy, I now trust NOD32 for my anti-virus needs.
2) Microsoft Activesync
If you have a Windows Mobile powered smartphone or PDA you will have encountered Activesync. It looks innocent enough as it lurks in the system tray waiting for you to connect your phone. If you are lucky, your device will connect right out of the box, but usually this is only if you use a USB port that it likes (for some reason Activesync seems to discriminate against USB hubs on some machines).
Once your time is up, however, try as you might, you won't be able to connect your device. I've owned 2 Windows Mobile devices and fixed problems with many others, almost all of them periodically require a 'hard reset' (the Mobile equivalent of wiping the device and reinstalling Windows) before Activesync starts recognising them again. Without Activesync, you cannot easily back up your contacts and e-mails, something you would usually want to do before resetting your device. Software such as Sprite Backup is useful where Activesync fails, but really, should something like your mobile phone require periodic operating system resets?
To top it all off, Microsoft tie in Activesync to Outlook, meaning you can't even use your own choice of personal information manager. Let's hope the new Windows Mobile improvements Microsoft are promising in wake of the iPhone finally address Activesync's shortcomings.
1) Radsoft E3 Security Kit
For a long time I have used Evidence Eliminator to securely delete private files and data on my PC. While I am generally pleased with the program, it is perhaps a little slow (though I don't expect such software to run quickly) and I dislike the silly scaremongering and parlour tricks the company uses on its website to push sales. When I learned about Radsoft and their E3 security tool I decided to take the plunge and purchase the software.
While the package has a greatly reduced footprint compared to Evidence Eliminator, its user interface is much more confusing. A simple window with a few buttons with confusing names is all you get. Nevertheless, it is marketed as a tool for IT professionals, so I persevered. Big mistake, running the software with the default options rendered a Windows 98 machine un-bootable. Running the “E3 Finalizer” (a function of the program which wipes all empty parts of a hard drive to prevent data recovery) on a Windows XP machine destroyed several large files on the hard drive completely. On both occasions I contacted Radsoft to ask about these issues and never received a response, nor have I received any updates or notifications of this bug being fixed since purchasing the software several years ago. Radsoft's site claims that it “serves to focus not only on the product Extreme Power Tools but also on the need for bug-free efficient software engineering throughout the industry, and on the attempt to reshape the topology of software production of today.” With such an obvious and damaging bug in their software, you can't help feeling they should practise what they preach!
Tip of the Month - Schedule Disk Defragmentation
If you've read our section on how to make your computer faster you'll know all about defragmenting your hard disks. Did you know however that you can use the Windows scheduler to do this automatically every month or so? The process is a little tricky to set up but Microsoft have a tutorial here that will guide you through the process. Unfortunately this only applies to Windows XP right now.
Free Utility of the Month - Xfire
This months free utility is for everyone who plays games on their PC. Xfire is a great little utility that acts like an instant messenger service for gamers. It lets your gaming buddies know what games you are playing and also lets them communicate seamlessly with you while you are playing a game. No more flipping back to the desktop to check your IM client. Xfire also tracks what games you play, so your friends can see what you think is hot right now. It even lets you upload screen shots to capture those moments of gaming perfection. Xfire supports over 1000 of the best PC games and is completely free. You can download Xfire for free
Do you use Trillian? (our free utility of the month from issue 2). You can download a plug-in for Trillian that will allow you to communicate over Xfire. Useful for those times when you are working but still don't want to miss a message. You can download the
Trillian Xfire plugin here.
By the time you receive this newsletter, the Consumer Electronics Show will be on its last day. This is the trade show where all the major players in Consumer Electronics will showcase their new products, the same products that will be on shelves later in the year and that the big companies hope you will be spending your money on. While the IT community is not expecting anything big from Microsoft this year, the rumours of the Xbox360 Ultimate, with a built in HD-DVD drive refuse to go away, although this is still fairly unlikely. Still, expect a strong showing from Microsoft with Bill Gates having already delivered his pre-show speech where he discussed the "next digital decade" where "technology will make our lives richer, more connected, more productive and more fulfilling". Without the hype you can expect this to mean more ways to connect devices (such as portable media players and games consoles) and more ways to share media and communicate. Sounds good to us Bill, now tell your boys to sort out those fiddly Windows Mobile smart phones before everyone goes and buys an iPhone! You can check out what Microsoft said and did at the CES by visiting
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