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If you spend a lot of time browsing the web or have ever gotten a virus, you may have heard someone mention the term safe browsing habits. I myself mention this term quite often to my clients, but recently I’ve come to realize that most people don’t really have an idea as to what these are. Even I get hard-pressed from time to time to actually name them off. So in this edition of “learn to use your computer moron” that is exactly what I am going to do. These tips are only a handful of things you can learn about keeping yourself safe online. Once you’ve mastered them however, you can definitely feel far safer when cruising the web.

So without further babbling from myself, here’s just a couple to get you going.

Visiting Safe Websites – This is one of the most important tools in your arsenal against viruses and attempts to steal your information. With the incredible amount of information out there on the web, it’s easy to get caught up by clicking on link after link to cruise around. This is a very dangerous practice to do, because along the way you will almost certainly click on some website that used to be one thing, but now is owned by someone less scrupulous. It’s important to try and stay to well-known sites with a good reputation. Places like Amazon.ca, Wikipedia.org, or even CBC.ca are well moderated and protected by their administrators, and can find you virtually any information you may need on a day to day basis. If what you’re looking for can’t be found in these places, try to limit the amount of independent sites you visit for your info. Do a little research into a company’s background before purchasing from them. All these extra little steps are extremely important in protecting yourself.

Never download anything that isn’t well vetted and documented – The internet is a haven for helpful, useful, and sometimes free software. There are millions of great programs and utilities out there that can make your life a lot easier. The problem is however, there are a lot of software packages out there that are more virus then helpful. If a program is offering you any kind of free content or services that most companies would make you pay for, it is more than likely a virus. The best way to be sure what your downloading is safe is to download it from a reputable site. The two best places for this is FileHippo.com & CNET.com. Both these companies are pretty good about keeping the bad stuff away, while offering the good stuff with decent download speeds. Stay away from little unknown sites, or sites that offer free programs that claim to do incredible or even illegal stuff. If a program offers you free movies or games, it’s probably a virus, or is infected with one.

Keep your computer up to date! And then keep it even MORE up to date! – One of the biggest vulnerabilities to the average user is an out of date computer. Microsoft, Apple, and even the many Linux versions available out there (Ex: Ubuntu & Fedora) often release updates to their systems to protect against flaws that viruses take advantage of. This is especially important when it comes to web browsers like Internet Explorer or Safari. Update your system each and every time an update is released.

That’s just a few little tips to get you going, there are many other things you can learn to do to keep your computer safer. Nothing is 100% foolproof, but every step helps.

That is all.

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What is trust really?

When you get stabbed in the back a lot during the formative years of your youth; well it does some permanent damage. It leaves scars, that no matter how much you change yourself, remain for a long time. It can make it extremely difficult down the road to accept that what you’ve learned to be life; may not actually be what other people see as the true meaning of it at all. We all exist in this physical body, and walk this gorgeous planet of ours, but we still seem to all have our own little universes.

Some of those universes have white picket fences, others are just the current moment in time and how we live in it. Everyone has their own perceptions, dreams, and believes as to what life is and what it should be. This is why the truth of anything is subjective. Even some of the most basic concepts like trust.

I’ve always taken the definition of trust very literally. My concept of it has been much like these dictionary definitions:

1. Assured resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle, of another person; confidence;  reliance. ”O ever-failing trust in mortal strength!” –Milton.
2. Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
3. To have or place confidence in; depend on.

But more importantly, I believed that trusting someone meant having faith that they would not betray you, your confidence, or your person. For example, trusting a friend not to talk negatively about you behind your back, or trusting a lover not to cheat on you. I thought these concepts were fairly simple, but as I’ve been looking deeper into my own trust issues as of late, I’ve found some other definitions of what trust means to others which both confuse and annoy me.

One resource I was looking at recently defined trust in a way that is complete foreign and seems counter-intuitive to me. The following is an excerpt from their explanation.

Logically, you know that what people say and do are generally two different things.

Yet how many times have you believed what people have told you, only to be hurt when they didn’t follow through? The way society uses trust, we hear a communication and decide whether or not to believe what we hear/read/see. Yet, I don’t know of a single person who has never gone back on their word at least once in their lives, so what is all of this trust stuff really about?

Everyone has their own set of fears and patterns that affect how they interact with others. In each hurtful situation where your trust was breached, people responded from their own unique set of fears. Because you wanted to trust and believe them, you ignored the truth to keep seeking love.

Every time fear won over that particular person’s ability to show love. The same is true for your parents and those who cared for you. Their fears and how they were taught were the only way they could express themselves to you, which was filled with their own anger at how they were betrayed and their own experiences of lack of love.

Rather than ‘trusting’ somebody, an option is to learn that people are always seeking approval and acceptance from others. No matter how sincere somebody is when they speak, ultimately the fears THEY have will win and what they do is a result of their own patterned behaviour.

So if you were to stop looking at people as to whether or not they can be trusted, you will be less disappointed when they don’t do what they say. Understand that everyone is in internal conflict about what they want and what they are capable of doing. Trusting someone is understanding why they act the way they do.

So let me get this straight. According to this analysis, instead of believing someone will not betray and hurt me. Accept that they most certainly will betray and hurt me, and accept them for that anyway? I’m no psychologist or councillor but that seems kind of ridiculous to me.

If I am to expect my love to cheat on me or my friends to stab me in the back, why the fuck would I bother with either one? I suppose my search for understanding on this particular subject continues on, unsatisfied. I can accept the fact that loved ones screw up sometimes. But I can’t possibly accept my girl friend screwing another person, or my friends betraying me. I trust them because I know they won’t, not because I accept they will.

Trust to me, is being able to not worry or think about these things occurring because I know they won’t, based both on emotional bonds and logical history with the person or people I am trusting. Is that definition too much to ask of humans? Because if it is, fuck this world’s inhabitants.

I’d really love to hear some other people’s definitions of trust, or their perceptions on what I’ve said here. Please leave comments on what you think about this subject.

Numbness.

As my eyes passed over the words staring back at me, I felt nothing but a touch of liberation as I assessed them. They whispered to me things like “betrayal” and “endings” but I didn’t really take their weight to heart. I was free of the waiting and wondering about what would or could be. I was free of the uncertainty my heart held for so long.

Anger.

As the breadth and width of what I was seeing started to touch deeper into my mind, I realized how unfair it was. Those words were delivered in a cold, cowardly fashion and it made feelings of angered grief come to the surface. “Good riddance” was my mantra for the rest of the faulted paradigm I was being encircled by.

Frustration.

I wanted to tell you how much of a coward I thought you were. I wanted to explain how you didn’t understand anything about the moon that brought you to me, and the stars that I stared at dreaming of you. But I had no way, no chance to do so. I couldn’t get passed the barrier of reality that separates us now.

Sadness.

Then I saw you. My heart raced, and my mind screamed at me to do something, anything to try and get you to understand what you have done.  It wanted me to cry, beg, scream, and kiss you all at the same time. You were naught but a few feet away, and everything that I had previously wanted to say welled up to the surface. But I did nothing. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t do that to you. You made your choice, and though it has killed me a thousand times over since I saw you, I refuse to try and take that choice from you.

Hopelessness.

It is indeed the end, as your betraying words said. This reality has settled over me with a depth of blackness I have not experienced or seen for a long time. All those beautiful, sparkling seconds have turned sour and meaningless. Everything we experienced together, be it good or bad is just a faded mirage of what it was. Perhaps it didn’t happen in the real world as I once thought. Perhaps we were both just lying to ourselves about the numbers. About the world we thought we were in. I don’t know, but I have no hope left to analyze it with.

Blackness.

I hope you’ve made the right choice for yourself. At least, that small conciliation could bring meaning to what you have done. I don’t really know where your future lies. I could never turn the pages of your book as I can with everyone else. You were always shrouded and protected in your many languages. I just wish you’d once opened up to me. In the end though, the meaning is lost upon you.

Goodbye my moon flower. Your vampire cowboy will miss you eternally.

Moose Jaw, Sask. via CBC.ca ~

Sarah Dionne, a practicing Wiccan and self title witch, recently spoke out against another example of religious ignorance.

As a Fundraising event for the coming Samhain (or Halloween), the Western Development Museum had an event planned on October 29th called the Ghosts of the Past fundraiser. The idea being that for a $30 entry fee, consenting adult guests could learn about things such as Ouija boards and take part in a séance-like event to communicate with ancestors from the past.

Now, I know most of you out there just cringed at reading the words “Ouija Board” to yourself. Most people I have spoken to, including myself, have a certain level of distrust for these particular occult instruments. Namely because you never can be 100% sure what exactly your contacting through such a device. However, if employed properly, and the proper protections are used; they can be a useful tool in opening people’s minds to the possibility of things beyond their normal perceptions of the world.

Regardless of our personal thoughts and beliefs on these particular practices and devices, I don’t think anyone has the right to force their beliefs on anyone else. But that is exactly what happened here. After receiving complaints from local residents of the area and religious leaders the event was cancelled. Why? Because these people expressed that they feared “evil spirits” would be conjured up, presumably wreaking havoc on their town.

Just for the record, I had to pause after that last paragraph until I could stop laughing. Sorry, continuing on..

Dionne, which brings up some very good point regarding Wiccan religion, was outraged at the situation. She brought up that Wiccans believe the Halloween season is a favourable time to communicate with loved ones in the spirit world.

To suggest that contacting any sorts of spirits or otherwise unknown forces in the universe is somehow evil … just doesn’t make sense, “ Dionne told CBC News in their interview with her. She later went on to say, “The whole concept of … evil and the devil, they’re not concepts that are in Wicca whatsoever. There’s no worship of the devil or evil things. Any of those stereotypes are absolutely false.”

While I agree with her on the concepts of the devil, the evil alter-ego of the judeo-christian divinity complex, I myself whole heartedly believe in the concept of evil or at the very least, restless spirits and entities that could potentially use Ouija Boards and other mediums to mislead, confused, or at worse disrupt people practicing with such devices. As such, I personally leave them alone myself.

However, these devices most certainly can be employed in a positive light if necessary. I just don’t feel comfortable trying it myself. Sarah also, has not called for the reinstatement of the fundraising event either, as she acknowledges the differing, less positive feelings of the Wiccan community regarding these devices but recently wrote in to a local news paper to complain  about those who would paint “witches and other pagans” in a bad light.

I respect and admire Sarah’s opinion here. She’s basically saying, not everyone even within our own community likes the idea of of these particular occult tools, but that doesn’t mean anyone has the right to stop those who do want to use them from practicing.

Good show Sarah. You’re of course totally right. Big surprise the bigots get their way.

Dear judeo-christian religious complex: Fuck you. That is all.

I have been saying for some time now, that the world needs more companies to ally against the hidden evil of Google. Today, as I type this, Microsoft and Facebook have joined together to combat Google’s influence in the world of search engines. I neither respect nor trust Facebook, and I only respect Microsoft as “the devil you know” type ally against the cancerous evil that is Google. As such, I am both happy and horrified by this at the same time.

But now I should mention, to avoid any misunderstanding, that Microsoft and Facebook have been close allies since 2006, when Facebook was still in its infancy. Which means Microsoft was their friend even during the privacy issues scandal.

What does Facebook have to do with search? Well, until now nothing. Which maybe was a good thing, but oh well. So let’s run it down.

Within the next few hours, Microsoft’s Bing search engine will be including a new module that interacts with Facebook. This module will pull data from your friends network, and give you not only the search results you are looking for, but input and opinions from your friends list. More specifically, it will show you, who liked relevant data or articles related to your search. And using your friends network data, will give you results based on your electronic geography. More over, when you search for specific objects (the example they used was a car) it will show you if you’re friends already liked it or liked reviews and relevant information related to it.

That in and of itself is extremely interesting, but that isn’t all this new personalized experience offers. They’re trying to improve the people searching for people aspect of the search engine as well. When you normally search for people on most search engines, its very rare that you get results relevant to you. What the Bing/Facebook module does when you type in a search query, is displays not only Bing’s search results but it hunts through your social network for relevant results as well. Then it can bring up results within the “friend of a friend” type realm and give that information to you.

The idea is, according Chi Liu, one of Microsoft’s people on stage, is to revolutionize the search experience. “For Bing, our aspirations are to go substantially beyond [Bing’s current version of search]. The prevailing structure of today’s web is fundamentally topical in nature.” He goes on to say, “The first dimension is that we’ll be able to create search experiences that weren’t previously available.”

The idea seems to be to place the search emphasize more on the trusted opinions of those in your social network rather then just providing web results. Interesting, but I have a problem with this concept. To put it as bluntly as I can, humans en masse are about as trustworthy and intelligent as a herd of cattle. So, though I may trust my friend’s opinions on a subject or product, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be accurate about the information they’re providing or the opinions they’re offering. It’s a dangerous new vector for the spread of misinformation based on erroneous or outright false ideas stuck in many people’s dumb little heads.

Social Networking, whether we like it or not, is a huge part of our modern day culture and I think it will be for a long time to come. As such, creating an interaction between Bing and Facebook (as long as proper privacy tools are in place, and work the way they are claiming they do at this event), is really the next evolution of search. Oh Gods, I sound like one of them. At least I didn’t use any buzzwords so far.

Speaking of which, one buzzword sounding term that was mentioned today is actually kind of interesting. The term is “instant personalization”. It is the concept that when you visit an “instant personalization” website, that website can detect your live Facebook login, or the active Facebook cookie and grab your name. It then can go to the Facebook database, grab the info you share, and personalize the website based on that information.

This of course isn’t new. Faceb0ok has already been doing it with Pandora and other sites like it. But bringing this to a search engine is definitely an interesting twist I wouldn’t have thought of. Because it’s insane. Security threat much?

Well, Mark Zuckerberg claims that Facebook is being very careful with this instant personalization technique and implementing it with only trustworthy partners that will roll it out responsibly. But do we trust Facebook that far, given its issues in the not-too-distant past regarding privacy issues?

One thing Mark noted during the Q&A portion of the event, which I think is pretty important to note is that no personal data gets sent from Bing to Facebook. So it sounds like the interrelationship between the two companies is only one way.  This means that your search results for penguin-on-transexual-monkey porn will remain within the confines of Bing and Facebook won’t know about your disturbingly horrifying fetish. Seriously, your sick.

So the bottom line of this whole event? Microsoft and Facebook are definitely bringing some interesting functionality to Bing, but I’m not entirely convinced it needed a whole live event to define it. Sure, it’s another layer of interoperability between large portions of the internet.

Guess I’m going to have to switch my search to Bing for awhile and find out for myself. I’ll post an update to this article when I’ve formed more of an opinion on it.

Picture this for me if you will.

You’re standing in your mechanic’s shop, your car jacked up into the air as it gets its oil changed. The smell of grease-monkey and subtle noises of the equipment making you nearly catatonic with boredom. Your gaze sweeps idly across the body of your car in a vain attempt to retain consciousness when you spot something odd.

Is that a wire sticking out of your wheel well? That’s odd, why would a wire be sticking out of your wheel well. There’s nothing wirey requiring in that region is there? You wander over to the back wheel of your car and reach up and inside. After feeling around for a moment you pull out a magnetically attached small black box & tube.

OM6nE

To be fair, my first guess would have been faulty remote detonated pipe bomb.

Seems like the beginning of a government thriller or X-Files-esque movie plot right? Once again, life (or more accurately the US Government) chooses to mimic fiction.

After discovering this strange looking device secretly attached to his car, young Arab-American and Californian Yasir Afifi, posted pictures of this device to the internet and the wild speculations began. Though most people that commented agreed it seemed quite a bit like an older model FBI tracking device (c0nfirmed by an ex-FBI agent later on).

Was it real? Did someone get their hands on it aftermarket? Or was the FBI actually tracking Mr. Afifi? 48 hours after locating and removing the device he sure found out. The FBI intercepted him and took their tracking device back.

So why were the FBI tracking Mr. Afifi? Is he a foreign national living in the US with ties to foreign powers? A potential terrorist cell leader? Seems unlikely. Yasir Afifi is a citizen of the US; born and raised for the 20 years of his life. Though according to this Wired article, the FBI seems to have been investigating and tracking Mr. Afifi for 3 to 6 months before he discovered the device.

Comments made by the agents involved to Mr. Afifi seem to indicate that the investigation was initiated because of some comments one of his close friends Khaled made on a website. Maybe racial profiling, maybe not. Hard call. But the potential to be in a similar situation exists for every American citizen. Seriously.

The US Circuit Court of appeals recently ruled that it is ok for law enforcement to wire your car without needing so much as a warrant. Good Gods, seriously? Police State much?

If you’re like me, a Canadian citizen or a citizen of another country outside the US, this should still be fairly alarming to you. Many other countries look at what the US is doing, and consider how effective that would be in their own country. And it’s even worse for us, because we have an idiot/US puppet as our Prime Minister in the form of the glorious Stephen Harper.

Regardless of whether or not Yasir was targeted by the FBI based on actual evidence or just because of his family’s racial background and ties, this should not be overlooked by anyone. The potential for abuse in this current situation is disturbingly overwhelming.

But our story does have a hero. Or at least a potential hero. Brian Alseth of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington heard about Yasir’s story much like we are. He saw Yasir and Khaled’s pictures of the device online and took action.

"This is the kind of thing we like to throw lawyers at," Alseth was quoted saying by Afifi. And with good reason. If no warrant is required to place these devices, the good ol’ boys club at the FBI could easily abuse them for selfish or personal reasons, or even personal gain.

Your stocks tanking? You think the CEO of a rival company maybe cheating on his wife, or doing something else embarrassing? No problem! Install ye olde tracking device in his car and send a private eye with a camera to follow the GPS. Admittedly this is a minor example so to speak, but I hope you get the general idea.

Wired.com reports that Afifi’s FBI adventure ended with the agents telling him that he should not worry about any of it.

"We have all the information we needed," they told him. "You don’t need to call your lawyer. Don’t worry, you’re boring. "

Yea, sure. Easy for you to say jerks. You aren’t the ones finding a tracking device on your car. 

Now, before I continue, I should point out that I’m not calling everyone who does this stupid per se. Well, actually, that’s exactly what I’m doing. But we’re all stupid at something right?
 
Anyway, one of the most common things I hear both inside and outside of work is whining about Microsoft Windows Vista. I just wanted to take this opportunity to say shut the hell up and stop it. Seriously.
 
I’m the first to admit that Vista’s launch was rocky. Very rocky in fact. But you know what operating system had an even worse launch. That piece of crap 10 year old one you people are still trying to cling to.
 
See in 2001 there was this new operating system that had more problems then Vista did right off the line. A lot of previous version Windows software wouldn’t run on it. The drivers were even MORE broken then Vistas was. Then there was the massive security flaws such as operating system side popups that people could broadcast over the internet randomly and you would get them on your screen. Not web browser popups mind you, but actual network-delivered operating system pop ups.
 
Have you guessed what operating system that was? That’s right. Your crappy stupid Windows XP. It was a terrible system right off the line, and wasn’t even viably stable and secure until Service Pack 2 came along. And let’s not forget how Windows XP introduced us to the concept of Spyware.
 
Up until that point viruses were pretty rare, and usually detected quickly by then antivirus overlords McAffee and Norton.
 
Comparitively, other then resource overusage, Vista’s major two problems were drivers not being available (which was a problem that can be attributed to hardware manufacturers AS WELL as Microsoft themselves) and devastatingly bad response to critismism by the Mac twits. More specifically, there WAS NO response.
 
Moreover, on XP’s release. Any games you currently had would simply not work. Period. They crashed right out of the box. Vista? Most current gen games at the time performed great. In fact in some cases, with the addition of Desktop derendering, they worked even better. The only crashing issues were caused by faulty or poorly developed drivers for hardware over 3+ years old.
 
This is the conversation that I generally get into with Windows Vista haters (at least the ones that don’t know computers):
 
Person: Windows Vista is terrible!
Me:      Well I admit that Vista is a little heavy on resource usage, but its really not that bad.
Person: Well I just don’t like it.
Me:       Why?
Person: Someone told me it was bad.
Seriously? That’s the best reason you can come up with? If you’re going to bash something at least have some kind of reasonable argument asshat.
 
Now don’t get me wrong Windows 7 is vastly superior to Vista, but GODS I’m sick and tired of hearing people whine about Vista when they don’t even really know why, or seem to forget how horrible XP used to be.
 
So please, do us all a favour. I don’t care if you’re a technical GOD or a person who just discovered where the “any key” is. If you want to bash Vista, do some goddamned research into what your bashing first or shut your stupid verbal diarheea generator before I shove my foot in it.
 
That is all.

I have been a long-time critic of Microsoft for its past software offerings and business practices, but as of late they’ve been making up a lot of ground.

It started with Windows 7. I can honestly say, that it is the first time since Win98 SE & Windows 2000 that I have been happy and even proud to be a Windows user. It’s stable, fast, and pretty damned secure. Then they introduced Office 2010, which builds on the successful framework of Office 2007, but with more integration and some features that should have been around from the beginning. I know, a lot of people don’t like the interface and layout, but stop whining like pansies and learn it. It’s actually very straightforward and logical once you figure it out. After that, we saw antivirus and security finally done properly in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials. Their replacement for Windows Live OneCare has been a great success in a lot of ways, coming close to, and in some cases, outmatching even the best paid antivirus solutions. And lets not forget the Office 2011 beta for Mac OS X. Finally they’ve gotten rid of Entourage and replaced it with a proper, full featured Outlook for Mac.

But that’s not what this article is about is it? We’ve all been exposed to Windows Live Essentials for awhile now. And while not entirely stunning, it hasn’t been completely horrible either. The tools offered up until now have been disparate and individually lacking in any real substance. That seems to be changing very rapidly however, with the new Live Essentials Beta. I’m not going to cover everything it has to offer in this particular entry, but I will go over the tools I’ve been using from it regularly.

Starting with….

Windows Live Messenger Beta: Out of all the items I’m going to cover on this list, this is the one that’s probably evolved the least amount. I’m actually a touch annoyed with the default clunky, large social networking style interface they tried to implement. It is interesting to link it up with Facebook and have your news feed and such delivered to the messenger window, but it takes up far too much screen to actually be useful as a compact version of the sites. You’re better off just opening your browser. Now with that said, once you switch back to your standard Windows Live Messenger style, it’s still a pretty solid IM program. You can chat with MSN users, Facebook users, and a few other networks as well from the window. But an interesting addition to the Messenger application is the status at the top. As anyone that’s used Messenger for the past few years knows, you can add a tagline-like message in there, and anyone on Messenger can see it. With the new Beta, you can also have that message update posted to Facebook, or some of the other social media type sites it allows connection to. Not ground-breaking by any means, but still interesting.

Windows Live Writer 2011: This is the new Microsoft blogging tool, and let me just say I love it. In fact, since trying it out, I have been writing all my blog entries with it. What’s so good about it? Well to start with, it supports virtually any blogging software you can think of. You give it the root of your blog, tell it your blog username/password, and that’s it. It goes through, analyzes the blog itself to figure out stuff like template, CSS styles, how to post to it, etc.. and then brings you right to a blank entry. The page in front of you, looks pretty close if not exactly the same as it will look on your blog too. No more need for previewing, you can see what it will look like as you go. More over it’s a WYSIWYG editor. This is great for me because, instead of having to manually upload images to my web server then post them into the blog’s editor, I can grab them right from the hard drive and insert them, and Writer does all the background work. Now I realize some of these features are readily available in other blog applications, but this is coming from Microsoft, in a free package. But fuck me with a dead fish if it isn’t fast. On my Core2Duo laptop it takes less than 5 seconds to load and start typing. User experiences will vary depending on how stupid you are with your computer, and how clean you keep it.

Windows Live Sync Beta: I started using normal Live Sync a few months ago, and it was basically just DropBox with a 2GB Online storage box. But with the new Beta of the program, syncing has been streamlined much more. They also have settings to specifically sync Internet Explorer favourites and settings, as well as Outlook templates and signatures. But the feature that I really like, is the Remote Access. Basically it is Remote Desktop using Live Sync, which means, as long as Sync is running, you can remotely access any of your computers even if it doesn’t have the RDP port routed to it. This is a fantastic feature for me, as I regularly forget my laptop at work, and need to grab info or files off of it. Despite having a corporate firewall to get through, I just open the sync tool, and tell it to connect me to my lappy. I should caution you though, through firewalls and routers, the speed that the remote connection runs at can be painfully bad. But hey, this is a Beta right? Not expecting perfection… yet.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here of what Microsoft is offering with this package, mostly because I haven’t a use for the rest at present. But goddamn it, if they aren’t doing some great work these days over in Redmond. If they keep this up, I might actually consider them more than just an ally of convenience against Google’s fowl demonic presence.

Of course Windows ME came after Windows 98 SE.. So I’m not holding my breath.

UPDATE – Since this article was published, this has moved out of Beta. Windows Live Essentials 2011 is available for download now.

Since this Beta, there are a few little changes. Not big enough to mention here of course. Things like Windows Live Sync is now called Windows Live Mesh. I would highly recommend downloading and taking advantage of these free applications. Even if you’re not going to use them very often, they don’t take much space and can come in handy at surprising times!

Computers are indeed the future destroyers of our entire race. I say this with one hundred percent conviction. I didn’t get into the computer industry because I liked tinkering with computers, or fixing peoples problems. I got into computer repair for intimate knowledge of how they work.

murderbot

Pictured: Murder-bot

You see, when evil murder-bots from the future come back to destroy us all, I’m going to need to know how they work in order to defeat them. So I’m not writing this because I’m a fan of Microsoft or Apple, I’m writing it to help give you the tools to survive the coming robot-apocalypse.

So let’s start with the basics. There are a few tools out there you’ll need to help slowdown the evil artificial intelligence that will inevitably destroy your world. All of these have no associated costs, and are readily available to any internet connected computer.

Windows users first, because we all know the world, and evil AIs run on windows.

skynetpostinstall
See? Told ya.

CCleaner: This wonderful little freeware tool is an excellent anti-artificial intelligence utility. It cleans out your registry, removes junk files from your hard drive, and can disable or delete those pesky little programs that start up with your computer… Like Skynet.

Microsoft Security Essentials:  The first defense against any sort of unsolicited attack from evil cyber-intelligences is a proper antivirus solution. If you’re bent on cheaping out here, this is your free antivirus. Yea, AVG has a prettier interface and what not, but let’s face it. Microsoft knows their product’s functionality better than anyone else. Check out the reviews on it if you don’t believe me.

Malwarebytes: There’s always a chance that an evil AI won’t directly attack your computer. After all doing so would risk exposure and its precious cyber-tentacles of control. Instead it may enlist the aid of malicious software just outside the classification of viruses. In this case MSE just might not cut it. Malwarebytes is one of the most effective, and best recognized free malware removers out there. If you don’t have it, you prefer to die under the crushing weight of a mechanized foot on your skull.  To each their own I guess.

Now onto the so-called invulnerable Apple users; boy do I have some news for you guys. First off, the myth that Macs are immune to virii, is just that; a myth. There are indeed viruses and malicious programs targeted towards Mac users out there. I admit, they are much rarer, but not altogether absent.

iworm

Oh but it gets better, because of the rarity of these viruses, there are very few options to defend against such threats. A few of the bigger antivirus companies make a Mac version of their software, but it’s still a weak defense at best. Even worse is, that there is no real free antivirus/antispyware software out there for Macs. At least, none that I’ve ever heard of.

Because of this, our future computer overlords will target you Apple users first. You’re basically doomed. There’s very little I can do for you. However if you want your fruit computer to work well and efficiently until they day of your unavoidable fate, here’s a few utilities that will help you out.

Onyx: Onyx is much like CCleaner for Mac OS X. It does a few of the same things, but it also cleans out caches that are unique to Mac OS X and some other maintenance stuff that keeps it running smoothly. It can also run checks on your hard drive and file system and make corrections if necessary.

AppCleaner: There are a few of these little programs out there. Basically when you install an app onto your Mac, it creates data storage and temp directories in some cases. If you remove the app by dragging it to the trash bin, these directories and files are left behind to take up space. If you instead drag the app to AppCleaner, it runs a quick scan, figures out which directories and left over data belongs to the app and removes it all.

Burn: Mac OS does have some integrated CD/DVD burning solutions, however they lack robustness. This free little app for Mac OS is your quintessential burning software. It does everything. Well ok, it doesn’t stop evil AIs, but they’ll definitely appreciate the program too. Perhaps they will kill you quickly for your assistance.

Adium: In the early days of the apocalypse, keeping open dialogue with the vile machine intelligences will be critical. One must be able to feed it false information, try to reason with it, and perhaps even betray humanity to it for ones life. Keeping that in mind, what better way is there to communicate with a computer then to use good ol’ fashioned instant messaging. I’m not saying that it’ll have an ICQ number or AOL screen name, but I’m pretty sure it will be monitoring all computer-based communications. That’s where Adium comes in. It’s an all-in-one messanger app like Digsby or Trillian for Windows. A pretty lightweight and efficient one too.

Ok onto Linux. Most people using Linux already has their firewall configured properly, running an encrypted hard drive, with an unrelenting eye glancing to the system logs for potential breaches. First off, I’d like to point out that the robot hive mind has several thousand computers to run calculations on. It will brute force your root password before you can blink an eye. Now, for the rest of you, who are newly embracing Linux by installing Ubuntu, Fedora, or some of those other user friendly ones. First off, congratulations, you have taken a step towards keeping yourself safe and alive against the robot army tracking you down with your own webcam. Unfortunately, to be completely safe you need to know approximately everything about Linux. It was a good try though. You should definitely give yourself a pat on the back for putting out the effort to try and survive, even if it was a futile attempt.

Now please understand, I am not giving you these tools because I expect or even hope you’ll survive the comming reaping of humanity. Quite the opposite in fact. I expect you are all going to die like lambs to the slaughter. However, if you resist just a little longer, that buys me time to complete my own plans. So be good little lambs, do as your told, and you might just get an extra few hours of breathing before the end. Hours of unending pain and torture true, but still you’re alive aren’t you?

Cheers, cannon fodder!

Copyright notice: The images in this entry are used without permission from their authors. The respective images are copyrighted to the original copyright holders. They are used here under Fair Use as part of a satirical or parody article. Any trademarks or logos are also copyright of their respective owners.

Myself and my best friend eat out alot. As such we decided to start providing reviews of the places we discover. The main reason for ME to do this is so I can remember which places are awesome for future reference. But also to share our viewpoint with people who are interested in it.

To this end we created a facebook page called Calgary Bytes (Link: Calgary Bytes! on Facebook ).

I’ll be reposting most of our reviews here as well. But if you want to become a fan, head over to our page.

So without further adieu. Our first review.

Spoonful, #105 6404 Bowness Rd. Calgary

Type of Cuisine:
Chinese and Thai with some Vietnamese influence
(Colin) – I love fusion of cooking styles and flavours
(Esher) – I love cold fusion reactors. Also, I like food.

Decor and Space:
(Colin) – Neatly combines oriental feel with a modern look, not over the top with patterns and textures. A comfortable space with cool colours, and nice stone topped tables.
(Esher) – The space isn’t exactly modern restaurant material. It’s better. It’s comfy, relatively small, but the darker theme gives it a nice atmosphere.

Service:
(Colin) – Our server was courteous and attentive. When there was a slight delay on one dish he was kind enough to let us know right away, and apologize for the inconvenience. Though I must note, it was only a minor delay and there was already food on the table to keep us occupied.
(Esher) – Honestly, the apology wasn’t necessary at all. We were already munching out on some delicious food. But this was a good trait in that he was managing the customer’s expectations very efficiently. His overall attitude was friendly and polite. He successfully gave us the impression that he was happy to be serving us. His attitude wasn’t fake. And that’s important to me. Nothing worse then judgmental pricks who pretend to like you, and make fun of you behind your back.

What we ordered/Dish reviews:
(Colin) – First take to note main dishes come on a large plate for the whole table. You have the selection of bowl or plate for personal serving, forks and knives are on the table, chopsticks are on request. Serving size for each dish is enough to split between 2-3 people, but don’t be afraid to order too much, you will want to take it home with you.
(Esher) – Also, I like food.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls – Quantity 4, served with Thai sweet n spicy sauce.
Esher- I’m generally not too fond of spring roles. They’re usually greasy, over-fried and generally unappetizing. But these set an excellent tone for the entire dinner experience. They were light, and tasted healthy. If you open with something heavy in grease, it tends to make the rest of the meal feel heavier because of it. So I was very happy when I tasted these. The order size in my opinion was not big enough to classify as a group appetizer, but for a single person, it’s fine. However, the other dishes we ordered were sized for the table rather than an individual, so I must wonder if these were intended in the same manner or not.

Colin- At first I was a little disappointed in the small size of these spring rolls. However they are quite tasty, and the sweet sauce with a mild kick of spicy heat works well. While deep-fried like other spring rolls they did not seem heavy with oil, an enjoyable appetizer.

Rainbow Noodles- 2 types of vermicelli (standard [rice] and clear [bean curd I believe]) cooked with BBQ pork, chicken, green and red bell pepper.
Esher- The overall theme for this meal was authentic (westernized) light food and this particular dish kept that theme going well. The consistency of all the components was near-perfect, the savoury flavor was well complimented by the peppers, and the meats were cooked perfectly.

Colin- Ohh So tasty, I’m coming back for this one. The flavour is quite savory, I had 3 bowls of it. In spite of being a big noodle dish, it is very light and does not leave you feeling bloated. I found the flavour balance to be excellent with no one ingredient over-powering this dish.

Ginger Chicken- Battered chicken, green and red bell pepper. In Szechuan ginger sauce.
Esher- One of my staple foods when ordering Chinese is Ginger Beef. Not because I like most places Ginger Beef, but because of my own holy grail-like quest. You see, I had once the best Ginger Beef -ever- back in the late 90s. It was at a place called Harbor City down in Chinatown. Since then I have been searching unsuccessfully for something that could compare and have never come up with anything. This dish however has given me great hope that my quest is finally at an end, and I’ll become an immortal godlike rogue with epic level daggers… wait, what was I talking about? Oh yea. Like the spring rolls, the ginger chicken was light. Seriously. Moreover, it had lots of sauce on it. I know. I was as confused as you are right now. But it gets better. Not only did it not feel heavy and layered with grease and MSG, but it was actually good. In fact it was really good. The near-perfect amount of crushed chillis, perfectly prepared sauce, firm but not chewy or rubbery, and tie fighters. Minus the tie fighters part.

Colin- I’ve had ginger chicken all over the city, this has got to be the first time I truly enjoyed it. Many other places I’ve been it’s tough from over cooking and the batter is soaked with oil. At spoonful, this was definitely not the case. It certainly had a much lighter presence than you would usually find in westernized-oriental food, that many have unfortunately become accustomed to. I found the spicy nature of this dish to be just right, it creeps up on you after the first bite, but does not quickly become the only thing you can taste. You have that time with each bite to really taste the other flavours before you feel that bit of heat.

Coconut Rice-
Esher- I don’t eat rice. At least not without a ridiculous pile of soy sauce. Until now that is. I can only guess at the demonological rituals completed to cook this rice, but whatever foul nether essence they used to make this dish turn out the way it did, worked. I literally could not put down the dish until it was finished. The coconut added the perfect accent to a jasmine rice that was not too sticky and mushy, nor too firm. And the flavour didn’t overpower the simplicity of it either. This was almost my favorite thing we had.

Green Tea Ice Cream-
Esher- zomg.. green tea and ice cream actually don’t make a nerve gas when combined. I know, crazy right? But it actually tastes damned good.

Colin- The perfect end, after the spicy ginger chicken. Presentation points here, a single scoop served in a wine glass, with a nice straw shaped cookie. I’ve had green tea ice cream at other places, but often found them either weak in flavour with too much sugar, or not sweet enough so basically all you taste is green tea. I found this particular scoop to be very well balanced.

Pricing: Bill $36.23 none too shabby for the tasty food. With a coffee and an ice tea.

Over-all rating:
Esher- I give it a cold fusion reactor.. Which is good.. I think. My only complaint is the group-oriented dish scheme. If I wanted to go for a bite to eat on my own, would I still be getting a giant plate of Ginger Chicken? I dunno. Also, they need better menus. Theirs were silly looking. (4/5)
Colin- I give it 3 rice bowls, a platypus and half a tasty spring roll. (4.5/5)

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