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HTMLfixIT Archive for January, 2005




Monday, January 24th, 2005 by Don

Franki and I try a lot of software and install and uninstall things regularly on our Windows O/S Machines (Franki: hey! I dual boot OK.). One of the problems is that over time they tend to slow down. Today we happened onto a great system optimization tool and registry cleaner that meets our criteria for great software: (more…)

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Saturday, January 22nd, 2005 by Franki

FTP is not something I do much of any more, I’ve swapped all my systems over to SSH due to the un-encrypted nature of normal FTP. (With FTP you are sending your username and password as plain text every time you connect.) But quite often I find myself needing to use FTP to help a client with an script install or something of that nature, so I always make sure I have a suitable FTP client handy. Previously I was using SmartFTP which is a pretty good free FTP client that does all the usual things just fine and so I hadn’t been actively looking for an alternative. Then I discovered though a client that SmartFTP has some issues running on Win98 systems, and so I stopped recommending it to clients and friends. Not only that, but generally I prefer to recommend Open Source applications where possible because I never really know what’s inside closed source applications be they free or otherwise. Then I discovered FireFTP.

FireFTP is a browser extension for the Firefox web browser, possibly the most featured, secure and easy to use web browser available. If you use Firefox already, then all you need to do, is head over to the FireFTP page, click on the “install” link and then follow the prompts.

(more…)

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Friday, January 21st, 2005 by Don

Microsoft recently released beta versions of anti-virus and anti-spyware software. We debated a story on it, but decided not to run it because we didn’t know enough about it. There is great concern that MS intends to get people reliant on it and then start charging for it. Why the concern? Just choose another vendor if you wish like Clamwin or AVG (see our sidebar). One of the biggest dings on the beta versions reported elsewhere was that they were checking the validity of operating system licenses before allowing the download. That very thing was reported on Security Focus … and guess what, for once it was an exaggeration of the real story as it was not required. Having said that, it was being recommended. The only people who should have problems with that issue are people running illegal software. As much as we like GPL, shareware and freeware around here, we also respect that people are entitled to charge for their product and work (even we offer a blend of free and modestly priced scripts here on our site). If you aren’t running an illegal operating system you have nothing to fear — for now apparently. You decide, but with such great alternatives out there, we will stick to the ones we love.

Update:
All is not well in the MS anti-spyware world, as there are many complaints going around at the moment that the Microsoft application is mis-identifying legitimate applications as spyware. Applications like BitDefender Anti-virus and Real VNC (A remote desktop application) have been labelled as spyware by the MS application. Even Worse, BitDefender apparently told Microsoft about the false positive 10 days ago and has yet to see it fixed. Having your security application labelled as spyware by Microsoft is bound to be very bad for business so we might see lawsuits about this sort of thing before long. Read SecurityFocus for more on this situation.

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Thursday, January 20th, 2005 by Franki

The number of unencrypted unprotected wireless networks around is amazing, but they are not the only danger that users have to look out for. An attack method called “Evil Twin” is becoming more popular and is a reversal of the normal wireless dangers. Basically an Evil Twin attack is where someone sets up near a legitimate wireless hotspot and sets up their own wireless network and jams the original with a stronger signal (and becomes an “Evil Twin”). The result is that people connect to the malicious network unknowingly and start doing their normal stuff like online banking, E-bay and Paypal etc. While they are doing this, the malicious party is listening in to everything they do, and capturing any user names/passwords they use. Annoyingly, the equipment to do this is remarkably cheap, so it’s a practise that’s likely to get more popular before the law catches up. Read more about the Evil Twin attack at Eweek and at Cnet.

But first things first, the biggest problem with wireless at the moment, is that it has become so cheap that everyone is buying wireless routers and not studying up on the security aspects. On all wireless networks I set-up, I use WPA-PSK encryption (with the longest key permissible), hidden SID and MAC address filtering, while this doesn’t guarantee I am 100% protected, it makes me about a million times harder to compromise then an open wireless network, and it’s logical that these guys will go for the easy targets before wasting ages trying to get into my networks.

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Thursday, January 20th, 2005 by Franki

A company by the name of “DE Technologies” is in the middle of suing Dell because they offer an international e-commerce platform by which they offer their products, and that international shopping cart system adds up all the various changes, taxes and shipping, and tells the shopper in their own currency, what they will owe should they choose to purchase the product in question. Apparently the idea of telling people what they will have to pay for something in total before purchase is some secret technology that required a patent.

Apparently, only DE Technologies are smart enough to work out that a person would want to know the total price before committing to a purchase if it’s international, and because it incorporates currency conversion and stuff. (another “gee, how did they think of that?” aspect.) DE are alleging that Dell is in violation of their patent and owes them lots of cash. This is what happens when you have patent officers that have no idea about the technology they are in charge of, making the decisions. They think nearly everything is “revolutionary” and worthy of a patent, when to someone in the business, it’s a totally obvious process. I wrote a shopping cart years ago for a client, and it was an Australian shopping cart designed to take our new (back then) GST into account, the last thing it did before sending people off to pay, was display and email a pre payment tax invoice to Australian customers. Apparently the process wasn’t that “special” if someone like me could infringe on it just by doing what was obvious.

If you live in Europe, you are running out of time to tell your local representative that you are terrified that the same patent rubbish going on in the US is about to be imported into the EU. Check out http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/ if you want to help make a stand against this madness. For more on the DE/Dell story, see here.

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Wednesday, January 19th, 2005 by Franki

The Evolution e-mail client has been available for Linux users for ages. It looks very similar to Outlook 2000, it has much the same functionality, and it can connect to MS Exchange servers (and not just for pop3 and IMAP). Novell has now backed a port of the Linux e-mail client to run on Windows. When that happens, many people will probably stop buying Outlook, because Evolution does all the same things and it’s Open Source meaning you can get it for free if you are so inclined. (and lets face it, who wouldn’t be?)

I’m a fan of Thunderbird now, it meets my needs nicely, but before I found Thunderbird I was dismayed to find that Evolution didn’t have a Windows version as it was one of the best OSS e-mail clients on Linux that I had seen. The fact that Evolution can connect to Exchange servers will likely make many enterprise CTO’s take notice as not having to buy licenses to Outlook for several thousand users is not cheap and most of them could potentially save millions of dollars. (At the very least, they could use the threat of swapping to Evolution as a tool to get a better price from Microsoft for LookOut (sorry, Outlook) licenses.

This is also a step to helping users get used to the idea of a Linux desktop, if you’re already using Firefox, Openoffice.org and Evolution on Windows, running them on Linux will require no extra training. And the three applications taken together make up the majority of software most corporate clients would need.

Read more on the subject at ComputerWorld.

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Wednesday, January 19th, 2005 by Franki

I’ve been making a fuss about comment spam for some time now, and we’ve just introduced an image auth (Captcha) method here to stop the vast numbers we were suffering from here at HTMLfixIT. Well Google has introduced support for a new “rel=nofollow” link attribute which results in Google’s PageRank system ignoring the link. The point of this is that the comment spam is used by spammers to increase the PageRank (search engine rankings) for the sites linked in the spam. This new link attribute will make those links worthless to the spammers.

Yahoo and MSN have agreed to follow this move, so the result will be that there is no point comment spamming any more as it won’t count for anything anyway. Apparently many of the blog makers have agreed to add the new link attribute to their various products, but it’s really very trivial to add it yourself. As an added benefit to this, you can link to sites and subjects you don’t support without giving them a search engine boost. Read more at TheRegister or Eweek .

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