Archive for September, 2010


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!

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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.

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