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How can you get better performance with your Internet connection?

You’ve seen the scam artist advertisements for software programs that do nothing more than install junk-ware on your system.

TV Ad for software that did little to help novice PC users

The thing to remember is that many times your PCs Internt connection is slow becausee of your DNS provider.

Now you might be thinking “what is DNS John?” and I would tell you that this is a good question .

DNS means Domain Name Service. It operates on your computer’s port 53 and acts as the phonebook for the Internet. Here’s how…when you want to order a pizza for dinner, you may have to look up the number to the pizza place online or from an ad that they placed on your doorknob. You do not instinctively know the phone number to the pizza place and that’s okay. It’s normal.

Well in the same way you do not have every phone number that you may need in a day memorized, computers do not keep a track of every possible web site you might want to go to in a day stored in them either. Sure, some days you may bounce from a cable news site to a cable weather outlet to an Internet storefront and finally finish up at an Internet movie house like Youtube.

All of these have an IP address and yes, the sites you visit the most often you might want to save their IP addresses in your hosts file. This can be found in a Windows system in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts (and note that this file DOES NOT have a file extension).

You can save them in this format:

tech.jchampion.com            50.87.150.160

Now for you to have a better list of sites that are available worldwide on a DNS server. You are no doubt using one of the ones that your Internet service provider told you to use. These DNS servers may use tricks so that in the event you mistype a domain name, you are redirected to a relatively safe site that is hosted by the ISP or the DNS service provider. Any link that appears on these pages that you click on, make money for the service provider and likely put some sort of tracking cookie on to your computer to follow your movements to similar sponsored sites across the vast internet.

One way to speed up your experience and maybe avoid the whole tracking thing, is to use a new DNS provider. I’ll bet you did not think that you could do that but you can?

Simply go your Internet settings on your computer (Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections and choose whichever icon matches your Internet connection). Right click on this icon and select properties. Now select Internet Connection version 4 from the window that pops up and then click on the properties button that highlights directly below that selection box.

Another window will pop up that will give you some options on things to fill out. Leave the top of this window alone if your Internet/network connection is working fine. What you want to fill out is the section that says “Use the following DNS server addresses” — and now you get to fill in any of a series of numbers you like. It looks like this:

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you'll want to fill out.

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you’ll want to fill out.

The IP addresses to populate those boxes are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

Google also has a DNS service that is available for the public to use and you can certainly use their IP addresses, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 . With these addresses you get away from your ISP’s control but at the same time Google does not provide any level of service to help control or customize your own experience.

A list of other IP addresses for publicly accessible DNS services are listed here — just be sure to check the companies providing the IP addresses that you can use before you use them. You never know what information they could be pushing you to. There is such a thing as DNS poisoning and it is bad.

By bad..I mean that you could think that you are paying for an Amazon or Bank payment service and instead your traffic is directed through JimBob and Bubba-Sue’s scam site that culls your credit card or payment information before passing it along to Amazon or your bank so your purchase goes through and you are unaware anything went wrong, until you see your credit card bill or get that dreaded call from credit card security services.

It’s something to be aware of but do not be afraid. Forge ahead.

My goal in giving you this information is to teach you how to improve things for yourself without needing to spend money on software that does nothing but further bog down your system and worse, entices you to remove files your computer needs to run.

Have fun, be smart, and be independent. There will be more tips coming soon!

 

 

Create a button to kill a pesky or stuck Chrome browser section

browsersSo..you go to a site to read an article on rooting your Android/Apple phone, you get creative and want the lyrics to a popular song, or you visit a news link to some new media site that you’ve never heard of before but it has a news item that you are interested in and it happens…a popup window in the middle of your screen and it is asking you to some task before you leave (and that includes clicking on a “CANCEL” button on the popup.

First off–DON’T CLICK ON ANYTHING within that browser window. Nothing there is good for you or your computer. Most of these sites are made with CSS, HTML5, and Javascripting. JavaScript has a feature that is deployed in every version and you cannot block it easily, called onUnload().

So no matter where you click on that page or even if you CTRL-ALT-DELETE, you may be subject to something being loaded on to your computer screen.
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Another scenario is that Chrome for some reason is just stuck and will not respond to your mouse clicks and you need it dead NOW!

Okay…I hear you…much in the same way we created a shortcut to kill off Internet Explorer under similar circumstances, we can create a shortcut for your desktop or taskbar that will immediately terminate Google Chrome and it will not trigger any onUnload() event that can harm your system.

So to stop myself from reinventing the wheel, I want you to go over this previous posting — http://tech.jchampion.com/?p=16 and follow the steps to the letter.

The only thing that we are going to change the command you paste into the command line area from “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T” to “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM chrome.exe /T”

If you want to understand what all your instructions mean it is simple – taskkill.exe is the Windows commandline command to terminate a task by either process identification number or by name.

/F means to force it dead
/IM means the image name to kill
/T is telling taskkill to not only kill the program but any child programs that may have opened up as a result

This is quick, painless and easy. Just follow the steps from above and if you want instructions on all of Taskkill’s options use this TechNet link —

This works in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008r2, and Server 2012.

As usual…if you have any questions about this–just ask! Find me on Facebook, Twitter (@jachamp) or via this blog.

john

Windows 8 Tips and Shortcuts

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

One thing is definite in the world of IT: change.

Windows 8 is a massive step away from the way we were doing things just four or five months ago. As our laptops and desktops age, and we turn to retail sales outlets to provide us with our much needed “tech fix,” we also get saddled with Windows 8. While it is possible to downgrade your system to Windows 7, provided the company who made your system provides drivers for each component, it is simply easier to adjust and roll with Windows 8.

Now I’m not a fan of the OS. It’s got a learning curve and while it’s not ridiculous, it’s not exactly intuitive. So the trick is to make Windows 8 work for you and you alone.

Here is the first step… getting your start menu back. There are three ways to do this. Methods 1 & 3 are free. Method 1 requires you to do some keyboard work. Steps 2 and 3 require you to download and install software on to your computer that will create a start menu for you.

1) a) right click anywhere where there is empty space on your Windows task bar (that’s the thing on the bottom of the screen with the icons for all over your open and running programs).
b) hover your mouse up to the Toolbars and select New Toolbar from the resulting Window.
c) copy and paste this line and paste it into the select folder Window that pops up: %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and click on Select Folder.
d) Now you have a no-frills and free Start Menu with a list of your programs. You will have to move it over to the corner of the Task Bar wherever
you want it to reside.

2) Go to Stardock.com, pay $4.99 and download Start8. Install it and you’re good to go with something very similar to your old Windows 7, Vista, or XP start menu. It comes complete with file histories to make it easier to open files that you think are lost on your system.

3) Go to and download a free copy of ClassicShell. It not only gives you a Windows Start menu but it also gives you a chance to get rid of the Metro UI start screen. Again…it’s free and it works.

If you find anything else pretending to do the same thing, please be careful. A lot of malware is disguising itself as a free start menu or Metro UI interface remover.

Next time..we’ll talk about keyboard shortcuts that you can use to speed up your Windows 8 and maybe even your Windows 7 experience.

Do you really benefit from Adobe’s monthly licensing plan?

Adobe Creative Cloud logo

Adobe Creative Cloud logo

So Adobe Creative Suite 6 has arrived and with it, yet another effort by a software company to lock people into long term fee payments plan. First off…this plan is great for the student, amateur, or professional who needs access to Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, or one of the many programs included in this package for $49.99/month (fee may change).

But once you sign up for this service, you are probably not going to be able to use this right away. Right now it is taking Adobe 48 hours to send your serial number to you. It will make you feel like one of the students involved in the Adobe Education program.

Moreover the costs for this plan seem to be aimed at the user who will upgrade every 18 months or so. Where does this figure come from? I’m glad you asked.

49.99 (let’s call it an even $50) x 18 = $900 but that $900 would cover the costs of the basic CS Web Premium package. Additional software and access will cost you more.

Let us now ask outselves, when is this plan advantageous. The answer is easy…if you do the occasional photo edit or the infrequent web design, you will benefit from this plan as you can subscribe to complete your task and let the subscription lapse when your project is over.

If you are a regular graphic or web editor, then it is easy to see where you would benefit from buying a physical copy of this software.

Adobe tools are the de facto standard for professional photographers, video editors, graphic editors, web developers/designers and programmers, aa well as instructors and military medical instructors.

So plan on seeing more of these types of plans from other software companies. Plan on seeing more frequent, say yearly, updates from the big three, Adobe, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Are you still using PC Anywhere?

lock icon

A Breach is coming your way

Why? Have you ignored the requests from Symantec about ceasing useage of this product because of Symantec’s code breach? If you are unaware…read it from a trustworthy news source.

It’s simple…Symantec had its code stolen. The thieves tried to extort money out of Symantec and Symantec got caught trying to initiate a sting. So the code base for PC Anywhere is about to be made public.

That means that any hacker with a knowledge of compilers can, and will, create a tool to gain entry into your home or work systems. It means that your data is at risk of being compromised. It means that your credit card information and other vital information that could embarass you, that you keep on your computer, is likely to be stolen.

Do you need an alternative to PC Anywhere? You should’ve said so. I’ll cover that aspect tomorrow.

Could it be true? A Mac OS trojan?


Sophos’ Naked Security blog is reporting that they have discovered a Mac OS X backdoor trojan.

Now in plain English…people have flocked to Macs in part because they feel like they are safer and to a degree that is correct. There are fewer viruses, malware, and junk written for the Mac OS in part because the Mac OS X is based on the Unix platform.

That means that it is that much harder for writers of these tricks have to get the same payoff they would get on the Windows OS.

Now the difference between a Mac and a Windows PC is now only software. Mac’s are made on Intel chips, with the same integrated products that may be on your personal Windows computer right now. In fact…check our Franken-macs and see how some innovative users are finding ways to install the Mac OS X operating system on to their home made computers.

So why is it harder to build a virus/trojan/malware/or junk for a Mac? Well in part, think about who you are using your Windows computer as. You are running it as the system administrator most of the time. You are not running this as a plain user which has no installation or administration rights. This means that a piece of software that can load on to a Windows system is pretty much guaranteed on installing itself with Administrator privileges and thus it can run without your knowledge or permission.

Microsoft tried to correct this with a clunky User Access Control (UAC for short) but so many people complained because it wasn’t convenient enough and that it balked at everything they tried to do. Well imagine how that would have happened in a plain user scenario. The user would not be allowed to install anything so they probably would never be pushed to grant permission for an image to load or for a javascript to run.

But running your Windows PC as an Admin means you will likely never know that software with bad intent has landed on your machine. So where does that leave you?

Yup…wishing you had a Mac. But now Mac users are having to think a little harder and find a tool that will help protect their system. Most rely on just the MAC/Unix OS to protect them and their data but a trojan, which is a piece of software pretending to be something useful, can gain a foothold on your system and begin chipping away at your Mac’s known insecurity levels.

So what’s a Mac user to do? Well there are many Mac anti-virus programs available. Many are available for free.

My research has indicated that iAntivirus would be the best bet because it’s definitions and routines are meant solely for the Mac OS and will not include any Windows information.

There are other freebie anti-virus tools for you as well: ClamAV, Avast, BitDefender, and others. Norton/Symantec makes what my research shows as the weakest protection for your Mac.

What about the guys who are getting credit for uncovering this trojan, Sophos? Well they are useful to the consumer but they are expensive and they are designed to be a business/enterprise anti-virus that home users can use. So you should ask yourself…do I need enterprise level protection in my daily activities?

Plus you should do your own research. Don’t take my word on everything…read some for yourself and because your own expert and advocate.

You can find all of these anti-virus tools on CNet’s Download.com

Download.com’s AV list