Google Launches Sync for Mobile Phones – General Acclamation Ensues

Google Sync icon Earlier this week Google launched the Beta version of Sync – free tools for synchronizing your mobile phone’s Contacts and Calendar with your Google account.

Phones supported by Sync include the Apple iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.

As you might suspect, I’m quite excited about Google Sync, and I’m glad to see Windows Mobile support included. I’ve written a few articles already on syncing Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with varying services, all without Outlook. Here are some previous tutorials:

  1. Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar Using Funambol for FREE (article link)
  2. Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with Plaxo, Thunderbird, and Google for FREE (article link)
  3. Sync Your Phone’s Contacts and Calendar with Google for Free using NuevaSync (article link)

I’m definitely going to try my hand at setting up Google Sync, and am especially curious to see how it compares with the mighty NuevaSync. Expect future articles and opinions related to this topic in the near future.

In the meantime, if you have already tried Google Sync, I’d love to hear some thoughts.

A Very Important Program You Never Knew You Needed (RadarSync)

**–Edit:  Your personal Mileage may vary. My experience was great on an XP Pro Netbook, XP Home Compaq Laptop, and Server2008 Workstation.  Please read the comments of our community after this post before deciding if you are adventurous.  –**

Hardware driver management is not a pleasant task.  It’s painful enough finding the drivers for a system when first setting it up, especially if you have old hardware or hardware of mysterious origins.  Once this initial trial is over, it’s rare to think about updating your drivers (especially if they aren’t malfunctioning).  This, however is no excuse not to.

If you hit up any 3rd party driver download site, you will see countless ads for programs that claim to handle all of this for you, half the adds are spyware (SCAN YOUR SYSTEM NOW!!1) and the other half are very expensive and often times subscription based (Great solutions for multi-seat licenses in which you have to maintain entire networks of computers for a company, etc.).

What I’m talking about here, though, is a free program (Free version of a paid program, in which the pay version is considerably more powerful and useful, but typically more powerful than a home user needs, like most anti-virus softwares):

http://www.radarsync.com/
http://www.radarsync.com/

Now, I consider myself to be someone who takes pretty good care of their workstation, and, having just installed server 2008 on it, figured my drivers were up to date.  After the first scan, I found that about 30 of my drivers were out of date.  These weren’t basic drivers, like sound card, etc.  They were everything from my chipset to my PCI controllers on my intel board.  I did not run any pre-install benchmarks or anything fancy like that, but, after installation, I can definitely see a subtle improvement in the overall functionality of my box.

After you download the software and run the executable, you meet the usual screen:

Click Accept and you get:

Now, here is where it gets hairy.  Nothing corporate is ever free.  They will now give you a series of advertisements for various software you can install (Pretty much all benign).  The presence of these ads is what makes it possible for them to provide this software to home users for free.  Feel free (I strongly encourage it) to decline every offer.

Don’t get caught in the muscle memory of installation where you click Agree, then Install, the Next, Next, and Finish.  You will end up with 8 programs you never wanted.

The next screen to pay attention to:

Un-check Both Boxes.  They try and dupe you with the usual “Add icon to my desktop” check box you find in all installations, but this is icons for “other offers.”

On the next screen you can hit “Finish.”

Now it’s installed.  Run the program and you are greeted by:

Because it’s the free version, pretty much all you can do is click Start Now, or if you have already scanned, click My Downloads to view not yet installed but downloaded drivers.

After the scan you get this. Small pop-ups will appear from the task bar when a download finishes.  Click these to begin auto install, or wait until its all done and install through the “My Downloads” button on the first screen of the program. (Manual installs are good if you want to pick and choose what gets updated, if you know ahead of time of a potential conflict.)

I had luck with most components, but found it especially likes “Big Name” company hardware, your Intels and Nvidias. It may also offer you program upgrades, like the new version of PowerIso it offered me. Install these at your own risk (especially if you have software that makes you re-pay/re-register for large updates.)

You may occasionally see a window resembling this:

Any time you mess with drivers, creating a Restore Point is a great idea.  If you have a conflict (like the myriad of driver conflicts with XP and Service Pack 3) and your hardware becomes non-responsive you can just restore to previous configuration. This is essential, just in case something like what happened to me the other day happens to you – a driver conflict that resulted in my RAID card not functioning anymore, cutting access to my CD-Rom drives.

Now that your drivers are all updated, you can sleep better at night knowing you are getting the most out of your expensive hardware. Enjoy.

An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Part XI – Rising Antivirus

Rising Antivirus logo Welcome to the eleventh installment in our series on free antivirus programs. Be sure to also see the Main Overview, which contains links to all the separate reviews.

Up for review today is Rising Antivirus 2009 (version 21.24.20).

Product link: Rising Antivirus Free Edition

Rising Antivirus is a relatively new competitor in the free-antivirus arena. Based in Beijing, Rising does not yet have the big reputation in the West that other security programs enjoy, but that doesn’t mean it sucks. Google thinks highly enough of Rising Antivirus to bundle it with Google Pack China, so let’s see how it compares.

Installation

At just over a whopping 60 MB, Rising Antivirus 2009 is one of the heftiest downloads in this series, topping even the latest version of AVG by a few megs. Fortunately, no registration, serial number, or activation is required. Just download and install. Some other free antivirus products could learn from this model.

During installation, you can select components to keep or remove. We applaud the inclusion of an automatic USB Flash Disk scanner. Make sure that box is checked.

Rising Flash Disk Auto Scan (install)

A reboot is recommended after install. Once rebooted, Rising will finalize its setup process and do an initial memory scan. During post-install, you have the option to join Rising Cloud Security (helps them more quickly contain a new malware outbreak). It’s better for the Internet in general to participate, but the option is yours. I read the privacy notice and didn’t see anything alarming.

For the record, I’ve installed Rising on everything from Windows 2000 to Windows 7 without problems. It even works on Server 2008.

Interface

Rising Antivirus 2009 has a slick, dark interface. Here’s the main screen, featuring tabs across the top and buttons for common actions at the bottom:

Rising Antivirus - Main

I appreciate the ability to change the Running Mode from Standard to Silent. The fewer interruptions an antivirus program provides, the better.

Rising Silent Running Mode

Updating

To check for updates manually, just mash the big Update button on the main screen. Like any antivirus program worth its salt, Rising Antivirus includes an automatic update feature. You can adjust any additional Updating parameters by going to Settings – Schedule SmartUpdate.

Rising - Scheduled SmartUpdate

To make sure the updates do not interrupt you or break any full-screen applications, be sure to check the box next to Silent SmartUpdate.

Footprint and Scanning

Rising’s resident scanner occupies roughly 8 MB of RAM on my machine. When I trigger a full scan, the memory usage crept upwards of 50 MB – not the lightest program I’ve tested, but not terrible (unless you scan your computer every two hours). Most importantly, my system feels responsive even during a full scan – a subjective test, but an important one.

Rising offers two main types of scan: a Quick Scan and a Full/Custom Scan. The Quick Scan took mere minutes to run on my machine, whereas the Full Scan allows much more control over which disks and directories to scan, including scanning of memory and the boot sector.

Rising Antivirus - Custom Scan

In prior reviews, I calculated how long it took to run a full scan. Since it has been a year since my last entry in this series and the contents of my disks have changed drastically, that test no longer has a valid basis for comparison. Suffice to say that in my subjective testing, Rising’s scanning speed seems comparable to its competitors.

Types of Protection

Rising is similar to both AVG and Avast in that it scans for viruses and spyware, but does not include a personal firewall. Main features include:

  • On-access and on-demand scanners
  • Spyware detection, blocking, and removal (includes rootkit detection)
  • E-mail monitor (POP3/SMTP)
  • USB Flash, CD/DVD, and Network Drive monitor (Nice!)
  • Embedded Scan (protects Instant Messengers and Download Managers)
  • Web Trojan Defense
  • Malicious Behavior Interceptor (watches for program changes)

Like most antivirus programs, Rising includes a right-click targeted scan in the Explorer contextual menu. When performing a targeted scan, Rising will quickly scan the file or folder, then display the results. Dismissing the results screen exits the program. Not bad, but I still prefer Avast’s method of handling targeted scans – if nothing is detected, the program automatically exits. Why waste a click?

One handy feature is the Audit option. At a glance, Rising will share just how protected it thinks your computer is, based on its own features. There’s not a ton of information, but it will let you know if you have a deficiency, such as not scanning for a while.

Rising Antivirus - Audit

EICAR Test

Here is a link where you can download a harmless test file that should be detected as malicious by antivirus programs. As I’ve mentioned before, it is NOT a real virus. In order to test the functionality of a program, I download the EICAR test file to my desktop and start counting to see how long it takes the antivirus program to find it. Sooner is always better than later. Let’s see how Rising handles it.

Rising Antivirus - EICAR

No problem. The EICAR file is by no means a test of effectiveness, but merely whether the antivirus program is functioning and how it handles malware. I should really try to get my hands on a system chock full of viruses for more effective testing.

Final Thoughts

Rising Antivirus 2009 does a lot of things well. The interface is professional, the features are commendable, and the price is just right. Unlike some programs, it doesn’t nag you constantly to upgrade to the paid version. I also appreciate how silent you can make it run, thereby making it an ideal install-and-forget security program.

Feature-wise, I’d say that Rising is comparable to Avast. Both include anti-rootkit protection by default (are you listening, AVG?), both have IM and POP3/SMTP mail protection, and both include specific plug-ins for protecting MS Outlook.

One killer feature of Rising is the inclusion of the USB Flash auto-scanner. More programs need to do this by default, as we have already seen a number of malware programs that spread via Flash drives.

One area that remains yet to be seen is the long-term performance of the software. Rising Free Edition is still a pretty young product, and its performance record is short. To its credit, it has already won three VB100 awards (all in 2008). Hopefully it will continue piling on awards and accolades.

Rising Antivirus is near the top of my personal recommendation list. As to whether it will de-throne Avast on my XP machine remains to be seen (though it IS my current choice on Server 2008).

Last Christmas, I set up a new machine for my parents, and I installed Rising Antivirus on it since I didn’t want them to have to deal with re-registering Avast every year. I’m not sure I can give any higher recommendation than that.

Install the Vista Sidebar in Server 2008

So you’ve set up your slick workstation build of Server 2008 (see Part I and Part II) and are wondering which widget software to install.  Here are a couple options:

  1. Yahoo Widgets
  2. Google Desktop

Those are the standard options, but I find each to be a little too intrusive – Google desktop’s consistent desire to search my computer and email along with searching the web – you can turn it off, but it’s only one example of how it goes beyond a basic widget engine. Not to mention Yahoo’s strange widget dock that doesn’t actually dock widgets – Instead, it functions more like a shortcut bar with icons linked to your widgets on your desktop… redundant.

I really just need a clock, and meters showing how full my hard drives are, in a small memory foot print.  So the Vista sidebar is perfect for my diminutive widget requirements.  But it doesn’t come standard with Server 2008.  So, let’s Install it.

Installing Sidebar in Server 2008

Before we begin, please note that I am assuming your Server 2008 install is on the C:\ drive, if for some reason it is not, please adjust the letter in every run command below.

1.  Get ahold of the sidebar files.

The easiest (and most legal) place to acquire these is from a vista disc or installation that you currently own.  If you don’t have that kind of access, you can find the needed files at most any file sharing website, rapidshare, megaupload, etc.  Google is a good place to start.  Be wary, however, of downloading from sources you cannot verify as virus free.

If you are having trouble finding the files, these are few locations (I found from googling) where you can find them [We cannot verify the contents, safety, or legality of these files, download at your own risk and of your own volition.]

[TipsFor.us does not condone piracy, or the breaking of Microsoft EULA]:

32-bit:

Link1

Link2

64-bit:

Link1

Link2

2.  Move the files to a system directory.

Okay, so you got the files.  They should be zipped [unless you got them from a vista installation].  In rare cases, they will have the 7z extension. If this is the case, you will need a great little program called 7-zip to extract them.  Don’t worry, it’s free and fantastic.

Decompress [or  copy] them to the location:  C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\ [Your Files Go Here]*

*You probably have to create the directory “Windows Sidebar”

3.  Now to install the program.

Hit up the Start Menu → Run and type in (including the “Quotes”):

"C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe" /RegServer

4.  Register the necessary libraries for handling widgets (regular and custom).

Open Start Menu → Run and paste in these next 2 lines, one at a time.

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sbdrop.dll"

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\wlsrvc.dll"

5.  Now to start the program.

Either double-click on the sidebar.exe file in “C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\”  or, if you still have a handy Run box open, just run:

C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\sidebar.exe

6.  Make it run at Startup.

Just so you don’t have to do Step 5 every time your computer starts, just right-click the icon on the task bar for sidebar and select properties.

Tick the check box for Start Sidebar when Windows Starts.

7.  Address and Permission Issues. If you are not running as Administrator, you will receive a security warning, asking permission to run the file at Windows start up.  If you do have this problem, it’s easy to fix.

Navigate back to C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\ and right-click on sidebar.exe. Go to Properties.

Under the General Tab, click Unblock. Apply.

In some rare cases, this won’t handle the permission issue, and you will have to go under the Compatibility Tab and tick the check box for Run as Administrator, just like you have to do with a lot of gaming software.

8.  Yay.

Now you have Vista Sidebar running in Server 2008. Enjoy!

Get Acronis True Image 10 Personal Edition for FREE

Want to get your hands on a free copy of Acronis True Image 10? Act quickly and you can! In conjunction with PC World, Acronis is currently giving away licenses of True Image 10 Personal Edition.

Linkhttp://www.acronis.co.uk/mag/ati10pe

The catch, of course, is that they hope you like the now-outdated version 10 so much that you decide to upgrade to the newer 2009 version.

The site is currently getting hammered pretty hard, so you may have to try several times to register if you really want it. Registration only requires a name, valid e-mail, and a listing of other PC publications that you read (mess with their heads – put TipsFor.us in there).

Once you register for free, you will receive a confimation e-mail, then a temporary password. I found that since the UK site was getting slammed so hard, it was faster to proceed to the US site (link), log in under My Account, and download the software under Registered Products.

Free Alternatives

Miss this deal? Don’t fret. There are other free ways to create and restore hard disk images. We’ve documented a few already.

Option 1 – Macrium Reflect Free Edition (tutorial)

Option 2 – Driveimage XML (tutorial)

Option 3 – ntfsclone (tutorial)

Happy imaging!

FREE Book – Ubuntu Pocket Guide (PDF)

For those of you just getting started with Ubuntu Linux (and for you seasoned veterans as well), don’t miss this opportunity to get your hands on a FREE pocket guide (PDF).

Download – Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference

Alternate download link (in case the original is unavailable)

Written by Keir Thomas (author of the venerable Ubuntu Kung Fu), the 170-page Ubuntu Pocket Guide is aimed particularly at Windows users curious about the Ubuntu operating system. It covers everything from installation and configuration to security and command-line tricks.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

  1. Installing Ubuntu
  2. Configuring Ubuntu
  3. Getting to grips with the desktop
  4. Users and the filesystem
  5. Hands-on at the command-line
  6. Software management
  7. Securing the system
  • Appendix A: Glossary of terms
  • Appendix B: Learning more and getting help

Don’t feel like reading 170 pages on a computer screen? I don’t blame you. A print edition is available for a mere $10 (Amazon link).

This is definitely a handy resource to keep near your desk, whether you’re installing Ubuntu for the first time or just need a refresher on some CLI magic.

Have fun.

Installing MODx (MODx Series Part III)

Here’s a video of me installing the MODx content management system. In case it wasn’t clear why I was doing this series, I REALLY like MODx and I find it the easiest CMS to work with both as a PHP developer and as a front-end designer. The video is my small contribution to make it easier to install this nifty CMS, and sometimes less is more. There are already a lot of high quality resources available for anyone who wants to try out this CMS. See the references below.

A video used to be embedded here but the service that it was hosted on has shut down.

References

There are already a lot of resources available to help people install MODx. Here is a list of what I feel are the most useful:

Download MODx here: http://modxcms.com/downloads.html (obviously, you need to be able to download it before you do anything else)

Official Documentation: http://modxcms.com/installation-and-configuration.html

Wiki: It’s a wonderful resource with a whole section for installation. http://wiki.modxcms.com/index.php/Category:Installation

Bob’s Guides: http://bobsguides.com/installing-modx.html — Bob is very active in the MODx forums and he knows what he’s talking about.

Bits of Wisdom

  • Write down your database name, user, and password. These are the 3 keys to the kingdom that many CMS applications depend on. If you ever forget a password or get into some sort of trouble with the app, you’ll need this information. I recommend storing it in a safe place, as discussed by one of our previous articles on KeePass
  • Install the Sample Web Site. Yes, if it’s your first time, you can learn a lot by looking through how the sample site works. Go ahead and break it. Demolish it. It’s really easy to install it again.
  • Visit the Wiki. Some people (including myself) have spent hours creating pages with details and instructions for overcoming a number of problems. The MODx Wiki lives here.

Problems Installing MODx

Nearly all the problems I’ve had in the 20 or 30 MODx installations that I’ve done have stemmed from webserver permissions. Basically, Apache needs to be able read every file and write to certain directories. MODx is very verbose about which files and directories it wants to see, so this is usually easy to fix.

The other problems I’ve run into have only been on dedicated servers that I setup. I’m not a Linux guru (well, except in those really wild fantasies where I’m on a Lear jet with scantily clad foreign courtesans), so some of these “problems” are more like “no-sh*t-Sherlock” annoyances for those with more experience, but they’ve boiled down to simply installing the correct PHP modules.