Monthly Archives: January 2010

Browsing Internet Browsers

I’ve been often asked the question, what browser do I recommend? although the main alternatives I’m given are Microsoft’s Internet Explorer against Mozilla’s Firefox, there are in fact about three more main internet web browsers. Namely, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, and Opera’s… well, Opera. Although all of them have nice features and pros, the main question in terms of usage, when it comes to Windows based computers remains Internet Explorer vs. Firefox. As a note though before I get into that, Opera’s mobile browser is very well respected and it’s in fact my current choice for my smartphone (currently using Opera 10 beta), even though I must say that the mobile version of Internet Explorer that came with Windows mobile 6.5 in my phone is a noticeable upgrade from the last one.

But I’m digressing. Back to the subject. IE versus Firefox in a windows based computer. I’ll jump right to the end for those who want the executive summary and want to skip the details and say my choice is Firefox.

Why? For those who want more data, Firefox differs from Internet Explorer in the layout engine (software that allows content such as found in websites to be displayed). Firefox uses Gecko, while Internet Explorer uses Trident. Apparently the implementation of the respective layout engines and the way they have developed makes Firefox less vulnerable to attacks, more add-on friendly, and aims at being able to render more content than Internet Explorer. All these features account for the increase in popularity of Firefox from its inception to recent times. It is also worthwhile mentioning that Firefox version 3.6 has just been released, and it’s supposed to have interesting new features such as less memory usage and faster warm start times.

So while my choice between IE and Firefox is clearly Firefox, I would not discard the other competitors as new versions are released. Try them for yourself if you have the time and decide which one works best for you.

If you need help upgrading, changing or updating your web browser, let me know.

The New Malware Epidemic – Cause and Cure

Is it me, or are there more and more computers getting infected with malware these days? Being under the impression that this is the case, I set out to research a bit on that.

It seems like the DIY kits for creating malware have recently gone down in price and made more user friendly. It has gone down to the level where new and inexperienced cybercrimals can create malware even when their computer skill level is barely enough to download music or a movie from the internet. That’s a scary thought.

The creation and selling of these DIY kits has emerged as a business, and according to Marc Rossi, manager of research and development at Symantec “It’s possible that the people creating and selling these kits may be the same groups already profiting from cybercrime, and they could see this as yet another revenue stream.”

Indeed, newbie cybercrooks and veterans alike are using DIY kits to carry out phishing campaigns at an accelerated rate, security researchers say. They’ve been blasting out fake e-mail messages crafted to look like official notices from UPS, FedEx or the IRS; or account updates from Vonage, Facebook or Microsoft Outlook; or medical alerts about the H1N1 flu virus.

The faked messages invariably ask the recipient to click on a Web link; doing so infects the PC with a banking Trojan, a malicious program designed to steal financial account logons. Often, the PC also gets turned into a “bot”: The attacker silently takes control and uses it to send out more phishing e-mail.

What to do? Follow the advice in this article, and get all the protection layers in place in your computer(s), paying special attention to the good emailing and web surfing habits.

Let me know if you need help doing it or reviewing your security level.


the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Phishing, also referred to as brand spoofing or carding, is a variation on “fishing,” the idea being that bait is thrown out with the hopes that while most will ignore the bait, some will be tempted into biting.

Computer Basics – What’s Inside a Computer? GPU

GPU = Graphics Processing Unit. Inside a computer, minding its own little business, we find the GPU. A microprocessor like the CPU, it is different in that it specializes in processing data related to the rendering of graphics (video) in a computer. It can be embedded in the motherboard, or in a dedicated graphics card plugged into one of the buses as an extension card. Generally speaking, a GPU in a dedicated graphics card has more power than one embedded in the motherboard.

Even though it seems that the term dedicated is synonym with a GPU being in an extension card instead of embedded in the motherboard, the factor that actually defines it as dedicated is whether or not it uses the general random access memory (sharing it with the CPU), or if it has its own dedicated memory. That also defines its power.

At the moment of this writing, over 90% of personal computers use integrated graphics solutions, since it is more cost effective and only a small portion of the users demand more than what integrated graphics can offer. Chief amongst those included in the remaining 10% are avid computer games users (gamers), and those who run  graphically intensive programs such as computer-aided design (CAD) programs.

So there you have it, another piece in the computer puzzle, the GPU.

Computer Basics – What’s Inside a Computer? Ports

Having covered the Motherboard, CPU and Memory as basic components of a computer, let’s see what else is in there.

Ports. For the purpose of the physical parts of a computer (also known as hardware) a port is a specialized outlet physically attached to the motherboard, whether directly or through a bus. What’s a bus? This you don’t want to miss 🙂 .

In the electric field, generally speaking a bus is a connection between multiple electrical devices. In a computer, the term was originally derived from the electric definition. In general terms, it means a collection of wires through which data is transmitted from one part of a computer to another. If you’ve seen the insides of a computer, you might have noticed what seems to be a card that plugs perpendicularly into a slot in the motherboard. The slot in the motherboard is the bus. The card can be a graphics card (handles the video needs of your computer and is what the monitor is connected to), perhaps a network card (to connect to the network at your place and to the internet), even the RAM, and so forth.

So back to the original subject, a port can be connected directly into the motherboard (integrated) or through a card connected to a bus that is attached to the motherboard.

You’ve seen plenty of different kinds of ports. Your mouse and keyboard connect to a port in the back of the computer (called PS/2). Your computer speakers connect to an audio port, and as mentioned before your computer monitor is connected to the graphics port in your computer. Printers connect to a port in the back of your computer called parallel port. More about parallel port in a moment.

There is one last type of port that deserves special mention, as it has become widely used in recent years. Many of you have probably heard the acronym USB when talking about a computer connection, or perhaps a cable. “My iPod connects to my laptop though a USB cable”, or “I have a flash drive that connects to any USB port in my computer”. But how many people know what USB stands for, and more importantly, how many people know what it means? well, you’re about to become one of the lucky ones who are in the know.

Having defined bus above pays off now, since USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. Universal because when created back in the 1990’s it was meant to replace all the different types of connections between a computer and external devices.  Serial because, when talking about ports, it refers to a type that allows data transfer to occur one bit at a time, as opposed to parallel, where simultaneous streams of data can flow concurrently from a port (parallel ports were mostly used for connecting printers to computers and now have, for the most part, become outdated and replaced with USB ports, or sometimes network – Ethernet – ports).

In conclusion, the computer  produces a flow of outgoing data to some external devices and receive input from others, all connected together through ports,  which when properly operating form an harmonious system that becomes more than the sum of its parts – a synergy.