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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Lack of Safe Sandboxes

     It seems to me that security is something that no one wants to address.  And yet, its so essential for computer usage.
     I've been talking about this for a while now, but in an attempt to actually do something to help our readers, I have discovered that there is a disturbing lack of software sandboxes for people to use.  (For those who don't know what a sandbox is, its a program that you run other software inside so it can't cause problems.  They are especially useful for preventing viruses, because if you run your browser or e-mail client in it, a virus won't install on your system, just in the temporary virtual space of the sandbox.)
     In my searches of Google, I was only able to find two sandboxes that weren't attached to other software.  Kaspersky now has one, and I was able to find one other through a link in the Wikipedia.  Its depressing that with so many other products claiming to protect you, that when one can, it isn't readily available.
     I'm going to keep on this, and tomorrow I'll post on how well these four products seem to work.  I'll also post to see if I can't find any more, and what the links to those products are.  Until then, keep checking back, I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big Problems with BitDefender

     I hate to have to report on things like this, but it just goes to show that you have to have good quality control within a corporation.  On Saturday, BitDefender sent out an update to their antivirus product that completely locked down and crashed Windows Vista operating systems.  According to two different articles on ZDNet and one on cnet news, customers are really upset, and rightly so.  So, if you have BitDefender and a Vista computer that have been knocked out, bring them in and we'll retrieve the data.  Then go and pursue BitDefender, we've heard news that they are giving out refunds or extensions to their customers licenses(though who would want them after a fiasco this big).
     If you want to know more about this big blunder in the antivirus biz, check out the first article that I read on ZDNet on the subject.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Failure on the Banking Front

     Well, it seems that I am not as paranoid as everyone else treats me.  I have long been a detractor of the concept of online banking, being of the personal opinion that some things are just too sensitive to be transmitted over the internet.  Looks like I might have been right.
     On of the big buzzes floating around the internet security forums and blogs today(see Dancho Danchev's interview), is that the standard two-factor authentication is a false security, and not nearly as effective as the banks would have you think.  What worries me even more is that when I scrutinized my bank, I found that they didn't even run two-factor authentication, but just single.  (If you would like to see what two-factor authentication is about, check here at the wikipedia.)  Also there seems to be more information that Anti-virus' are becoming less effective with the older style black-list identification.  These lists of files that are known virus are now getting fooled and virus' are identifying themselves as different files, when in fact they contain the same threats they always did.
     Once again, I can not stress enough the need for safe internet surfing practices.  If it seems phishy, don't click it!  Know the sites you are going to, or at least find some method to verify that they are clean.  And please, for the love of your computer, don't use a P2P networking client unless you really know what you are doing.  Talk to your tech support person and see about implementing a sand-box environment(Kaspersky Internet Security comes with one of these pre-installed, we'll discuss this with a later blog post), and always make sure that your computer has the latest security updates from your software vendors.
     And finally, there should be some public outcry.  The large business and ISP's that could be monitoring themselves and preventing some of the worst of this should hire on personnel that are trained in corporate level detection of malware and virus activity, so that they can tell if your computer, or even their own, are infected by something malignant.  Put in the good word for these people.  Contact your internet service provider and ask them what they are doing to protect themselves and to protect you.  And if you don't feel that they are doing enough, complain, let your voice be heard.  Maybe together we can do something to help prevent the crime wave that seems to be flooding over this vast new frontier of the internet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pick For You, Not On You

     This time it will be just a short pick, without much a due.  To day I'm showing off Kingston Technology's 1GB DDR Ram.  This ones an oldie but good, not much use for a new computer, but if you are upgrading an older computer, usually within the middle XP range, this is a life saver.  Though Windows XP left a much smaller memory footprint than Vista did, many of the applications developed recently require a lot more ram, and most computers from the XP range just didn't come with much.  Adding just a gig more of memory can sometimes increase the amount of workspace your computer can play with by almost eight times!  So, if you have an older rig sitting around, or are just helping out a family member who hasn't upgraded, then the price and quality are top of the line.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Problems with MySpace

     So, I've found that I have a new problem with social networks; freedom.   They seem to want to restrict it.  I understand that they want to protect their interests, but the web is supposed to be a great big interconnected, well, web.  And it seems that the social networking sites want to keep people from connecting to anyone who doesn't go through them.
     What brought on this rant is the fact that I can't share a link to a Blogger blog, ANY Blogger blog, in my MySpace blog.  I discovered this because I was attempting to share this blog with my family, you know, show them how my business is doing.  I thought using my MySpace account would be faster and easier than trying to send a hundred personalized e-mails to all of my family and friends.  But, according to MySpace, Blogspot blogs contain malware, phishing scams, or inappropriate material.
     This is annoying, and why I have always personally derided Social networking sites.  They only seem to breed more problems and trouble than they are worth, and I have yet to see them help me network with people I really care about connecting with, because all I've seen so far are a bunch of strangers pretending to care who I am, and trying to get me to join their friends list.
     As to the reason I'm posting this here;  I once read that if you want business, be a little controversial sometimes.  Take a stance and back it up.  And this is something Digital Fruit will back up.  We do not support any of the current social networks, we will not get a MySpace or a Facebook.  If you want to follow our company, do it here on the blog, or in the user forum of our website*.
*said website is still awaiting a permanent domain, so there is no link at the moment.  I'm working on fixing this.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Web Resume

     I was just thinking that it might be nice to put up a couple of links that will start something of a little web resume for Digital Fruit.  These are two of the websites that the company is now maintaining, and they have been very fun and challenging projects at that.  Many more features are intended for both these sites, but I'm sure you will enjoy them both as they are.

     So, if you are interested in seeing how our work looks online, click away, and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Short Sabatical, or Long Lapse?

     Its been a while since I've done a product pick, and I'm starting to feel the withdrawal symptoms.
     So, today I'm doing a product pick of something that comes with an unfortunate tag-along, a service provider.  But what would a cellphone be without one?  Today's pick is the Sony Ericsson w518a phone.
     You see, I've been in withdrawal from more than just my blog.  I've been having to participate in the terribly trying act of finding a new cellphone.  I'm torn, because I was once good friends with the w518a's older brother, the w760a, one of few truly nice gaming phones that came to America.  Until, that is, it met a horrible fate one day when it met a very large piece of driftwood.  I won't go into details, but it was terribly gruesome.
     So, I waited months and months for a replacement of w760a on Amazon, but after six months of waiting on back order, my eye has begun to stray towards other, more available phones.  So, enter the sleek and sexy w518a, not a gaming phone, but an entertainment phone nonetheless, and sporting very close features.  I can still listen to the music that I've put on to my M2 micro memory card, and it uses the same connection port over USB, so I can connect it to my computer and transfer files.  Plus, it's a flip phone, so I don't have to go through the same pain of screen destruction that I've had to suffer with over my last phone.
     And I guess I might as well state it now and get the mockery and ridicule over with, I am a fan of AT&T service.  This is where I make statements about how customer treatment produces customer loyalty.  I have had several other cell phone providers in the past, and each one in turn has left me burned and scarred, forever deriding them as the spawn of the underworld (yes I'm talking about you Verizon).  Plus, if things with Digital Fruit work out, and I ever have to travel internationally, I like the idea of not having to buy a new phone just because I'm in a foreign country (once again, you are being implied Verizon).  I know that not all of their services may be the best, but I've had better luck and reception(not cell, but personal), than any other cellphone company I've had to suffer through.
     Well, I know that I haven't really given many redeeming traits for this phone, but I'm still mourning the loss of something I can no longer have, and I'm just starting to warm up to the idea of someone new.  This phone is certainly helping in that department.

P.S. Amazon has opened opened a new website specifically for the sale of cellphone service and devices.  It's still in its beta state, but it looks interesting, if you want to check it out, head to

The Problems with Peer-To-Peer Networks

     I've been working on some computers lately, and something I've noticed is the recurrence of people using Peer-To-Peer, or P2P for short, networks.  I can't stress enough that the reason these computers are having to be worked on is because of these P2P programs(heretofore referred to as clients).  P2P clients are a virus programmers best friend.
     Now, before I have people up-tight and yelling at me because I am deriding their favorite free music client, I'll write out for you why these things are so bad for your computer.
     The concept of a P2P network is implied in its title, Peer-To-Peer.  These client programs create a direct link between two peoples computers so that they can share files with out obstruction.  This is and always has been a bad idea.  Opening a gateway between two computers when you do not know the other person is an open invitation for viruses, because you have no way to control what the files they are sending contain.  Also, this open connection that you have willingly created leaves a port open that is normally closed on your computer, typically port 6346 for LimeWire (if you haven't manually altered the settings), and this leads to unpredictable problems. 
     The more ports that are active and unchecked on your computer the harder it is monitor and protect them, that's why we use firewalls.  So, when you open another port using a P2P client, you get a higher risk of people infecting your computer.
     My suggestion is that you shouldn't use P2P clients at all, but if you feel like you have to, use a bit-torrent client like Vuze and seek out a valid torrent file(Without using Vuze's built in search function), rather than using P2P clients like LimeWire and Kazaa. (Though I would like to note here that I am not an idiot for anyone with tech savy reading this, I do realize that LimeWire uses bit-torrent as well.  Its in how the program is structured that I am categorizing it along with crap-ware like Kazaa.)
     But once again, I restate, don't use P2P clients if you are worried about virus infection, they are just open invitations for invasion.  Just go to legitimate sites and purchase files legally, unless you know that it is a file you are supposed to be receiving via a torrent.  Then its okay.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saving Your Media (Part 1)

     So, you have a pile of old VHS and audio cassettes stored around the house, filled with all sorts of things from music you used to listen to, to the piano recital your daughter had ten years ago.  All of these precious memories, stored on magnetic media, are slowly deteriorating over time, and each time you go back and view them, you destroy them just a little more.  Such is the price of our old storage methods.
     Honestly, though, they say that burned CDs and DVDs aren't much better in the end, lasting even less time if left to the elements, dying after about fifteen years on average.  But the great thing about those digital formats that magnetic media don't have, they are easy to copy.  If you need to make a backup of a CD, you just put it in the drive on your computer and use your favorite media program to rip it to your hard drive.  And, with all the new flash media that music and videos are getting stored on, like iPods® and Zunes® , these digital formats can outlast most of us.
     So, in this first post I'm discussing the first and easiest step to updating and preserving your personal home media.
     Today's discussion is about transferring audio from anything that has a headphone jack to a computer.  So this one technique will work for a turntable, a cassette player, and even those pesky miniDisc players that were digital but still couldn't transfer back to a computer.
     Here is the list of hardware and software you will need to be able to complete this project:
  • A music player for what you need to update, in my case, a boombox stereo with a built in cassette player.
  • A stereo plug cable with two male ends>
  • And finally, a computer with a sound card(some laptops have the line in port you'll need, but not all, so you should check the symbols on yours if you are using a laptop).
  • The Audacity software program, available free for download at
  • The LAME MP3 encoding library. This can be downloaded at want the one that says Lame_v3.98.2_for_Audacity_on_Windows.exe).
     So, once you have all your equipment gathered, you will need to install Audacity.  This is a simple click through installation, with nothing really complicated to get you started. Once you have installed Audacity, you'll want to install Lame.
     Lame is something of a funny requirement.  There are legal issues surrounding Audacity directly using Lame in its code, but it can use Lame as a secondary library.  So you have to take the extra step the first time you try and export to mp3 to link Lame to Audacity.
     So once you have this all set up, look over to the right of the volume sliders in Audacity.  This little drop-down menu is the input selection menu.  For what we are doing, the only option listed here that we are concerned with is Line-in.  Select that one.
     Then we get to work with the hardware.  First, make sure your media player has power, then plug the stereo cable into the headphone jack.  Then, take the other end and locate the line-in port on your computer's sound card.  It should look something very similar to this...
Take careful note of the symbol above or next to the jack, it should show an arrow or something similar pointing into the center of the little picture.  Now just take the cable and plug it in. Now everything should be set up for recording.  Now we switch gears and start playing with the software.
     Now, one of the great things about Audacity is that it is set up like most recording devices.  So, when you're ready to record your music, just hit the record button in Audacity, then hit the play button on your music player.  Make sure that the music player is at a medium to low volume for best results, this way you don't end up with what they call 'artifacts', or extra noises that ruin the quality of the song.  When the song is over, just hit the stop button.  Then make sure you save your work to Audacity's native file format.
     This is all for this part of the series, as it would make this article amazingly long to add in the details of how to work with your recently recorded audio.  So, be ready for next time, we'll finish this then.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saving Your Media (Intro)

     As promised, I am starting a running DIY segment on preserving your home media from days gone by.  These articles will help you to know how to convert over your old analog video and audio to new digital formats.
     Some of these processes will be relatively inexpensive, while others may test the devotion you have to your memories of the past.  If you decide that a do-it-yourself approach to saving your personal collections of VHS, cassette tape, and 35mm film isn't something you have the time or money to invest in, Digital Fruit does offer services to do these things for you, so just contact us if you're interested.  The e-mail is
     And now on to saving the past by moving it into the future!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quick Note on Power

     Well, the word power means many things.  This time we are focusing on two of them.  First, the meaning as it applies to electricity.  Digital Fruit is taking steps to advance our production of power as I've stated before.  And the second meaning, as it applies to knowledge.  I've obtained material that will allow me to study basic and digital electronic circuits.  It's been fun getting to play with all sorts of new circuits, and that I can see new parts that I haven't gotten to work with before.  I'm hoping that this recent investment made in the name of progress for Digital Fruit really will yield fruit, and that I'll be able to use these experiences to help other people.  So for now, signing out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hope for your videos and cassettes

     Well, this post originally started out as one to help people realize that their precious moments can be saved from older media types like cassettes, both audio and video, or 35 mm film.  But the subject matter is so broad in its scope that I'm having to scale it down into several miniature articles that will have to released in series just to cover each type of media that we will be working with.  So over the next couple of posts we will be discussing how to up-date several different media types into new digital file that can be burned and saved to anything you want.  This is perfect for home movies or recordings of a child's piano recital or choir concert that you have saved onto media that a computer can't normally process on it's own.  So, starting with the next post, which will be on ripping audio from anything from audio cassettes to old records and more, we will cover many methods of preserving your precious memories.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Careful what you click

     I know that I've said this before about fake antiviruses, and it may be redundant, but I feel it needs to be said again, Be Careful What You Click!  I'm reading horrible numbers about how people are clicking their way into viral infection.  So once again, if you aren't sure about the content of something, then don't click on it.
    What prompted today's warning is the rising number of people falling prey to the cybercriminal tactic of hijacking a persons Facebook or MySpace account and sending out fake invitations.  I was just reading in the March 4 issue of USA Today about the millions of people computers reported to have infections from these botnets.   So, if some one sends you an unexpected invitation to view photos about a trip your not sure about, or invites you to see some video of a barbecue no-one recorded, then don't click it, call them and ask what's up.  It's better than finding out too late.
     Or better yet, don't use the social networks at all.  Tech guru's have been deriding them from the very start as places rampant with security problems and annoyances, and they generally amount to brain fluff anyways.  I personally run a MySpace account, at the insistence of someone I know, and I can tell you that there are easier ways to transmit your information to the people you care about.  So, if you already have one of these social networking accounts, close it, and if you don't, don't get one.  Its just safer.
     And on that note, I'm signing out for tonight.

Product I want Pick

     So tonight's pick of product is something I haven't really thought about lately, mainly because I made a good buying decision a couple of years ago.  Today's pick is that of an HP printer, the variety, a home model Photosmart.  The HP Photosmart Premium All-in-One wins this round.  I haven't had the pleasure of owning this model yet myself, but from all of my personal experience, and from what I know about ink usage, the Photosmart Premium is probably the best bet for an all-around home printer.
     With a touch screen for easy printing when not connected to your computer, and the easy of use that I've seen in test models, this printer can be operated by almost anyone.  The picture quality is top notch, and with a little know-how I'll discuss in a later article titled "Printer Tricks For Top Quality", you'll get some of the most amazing prints you'll ever see.
     Also, the Premium is designed for connectivity.  With the ability to wirelessly connect with your computer over a home network, and also the ability to connect to a wired home network for superior speed, this thing is ready for everyone to use.  And even more useful, it even has a bluetooth connection, so a bluetooth enabled computer can connect directly without any additional hardware, just plug in the printer, turn on bluetooth, and use your computers bluetooth to connect.
     But probably one of my favorite features is that it runs on the very cost effective 564 ink cartridge set.  These high quality photo inks are also very high quality on price.  Each color XL cartridge is rate for an average page yield of about 750 pages, and only cost on average around $17US.  This makes this one of the most affordable printers that HP has out on the market right now.
     This is my product pick for today, but remember, when purchasing your own printer, no matter the manufacture or type, pay attention to ink cost.  Most of the smaller and less expensive printers actually have higher priced ink cartridges, which means they can quickly cost you more than that of the more expensive printer that takes a more efficient cartridge.  A little online research never hurts.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mobile News

Hey, quick updated. We just got in some HP series 74/75 ink in the combo pack. Price is $30.00 per pack with limited supply.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wonders of the Internet (Part 1)

     Isn't the internet a wondrous place?  So many things to do and see, and so many people to meet.  It's like the ultimate convention of people like you.  You can shop, you can show off, you can just sit down and watch a little TV, all from the same screen.  And if you're in the know enough, you can even make money via the internet.  So this post is about the last part, leveraging the web for monetary reasons.  How does someone make money on the web, you ask?  The ways are almost as varied as the net itself.
     First, and possibly the least amount of work, depending on how devoted you are to it, is to set up a website or blog and monetize it.  This process can range from easy(such as starting a blog here on Blogger and clicking the monetize tab) to extremely complex(Managing several websites, domains, feeds, and setting up search, and running ads from a variety of carriers, such as Google and Yahoo).   This is one of the most passive forms of money-making on the net, as all you really have to do is post every once in a while on your blog and hope people click on the Google ads posted on your site.  So, if you are willing to put at least some effort into this, it can turn you a few bucks.
     Next is active working sites.  The only site that I have found at this point that has you actively participating in the work flow of the internet is Mechanical Turk, run by Amazon.  Mturk for short, this site has two sides.  You can either log in as a requester, or a worker.  As a requester, you put up a HIT(human intelligence task), and set up an amount for payment.  As a work, you sift through all the HITs available until you find one that interests you and is for a price you deem fair.  You then select it and complete the work for the HIT online and get paid once the requester looks over your work.  These on average are things like identifying objects in photographs, answering questions, or checking web links to see if the site is still there and works. (warning! These HITs are intended to be relatively quick and easy to accomplish, if there is a HIT that seems to require a lot of work, but offers a high dollar value, it is probably a scam, or isn't worth wasting your time on, you could probably make more money faster doing the smaller ones.)  This is one of my favorite ways to while away some time on the net and get paid for it, you just have to get used to the monotony.
     Another way to help you make money on the net are the highly popular online auction sites like Ebay.  These sites allow you to post and sell almost anything, and if you've read or watched much of the news in the past decade, you know that I mean anything.  So, if you have things lying around that you'd rather get rid of, post them online for sale or trade.
     Then there are online periodical publishing sites like AOL's Seed.  This site is new, and really cool.  If ever you've wanted to be a freelance writer or photographer, this site is the way to start.  You just go on, sign up, and start looking through the titles that Seed wants to publish.  You select one of the articles to write, follow the instructions for length and subject matter, and then post your work. (For photography your directions are subject matter and composition, and you just post it like it was being posted to an online photo album).  The payout is about what you'd expect for freelance article writing, plus, it gets you published on the web.  I haven't had much luck on this site yet in terms of acceptance, but I also haven't spent much time writing anything but this blog recently.
     So, here are some starters for web wonders that pay.  Look into some of these if you're interested, but always remember, with these sorts of things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


     Its funny sometimes how just a little thing like a misspelled word can make a difference.  I was just checking up today on how the site is doing, and found that it appears on a search listing for Google as number 3! But then I realized that it was because I can't spell well and had somehow managed to post something with a spelling error, even with the mighty spell-check turned on.
     What this has to do with computer tech is this;  it is an object lesson.  A person should always realize that computers are not perfect, and they make as many mistakes as human beings.  So be careful how much you depend on your computer, because they are no substitute for your own personal knowledge.  That said, my post is done