Friday, July 25, 2008

GMAIL's security, now featuring 'Forget Me Not'

I have been using free email services since long, but GMAIL was the first to offer me the option to access the mail in a safe and secure fashion, using the https://www.gmail.com instead of the regular http://www.gmail.com. Though I do not have the national secrets to guard, but now I have a choice to better protect my privacy, that too for free. The only thing to keep in mind is that, except for the Google login screen, https is not used by default, unless you type it in yourself.

So, if you feel that you need the safety from prying eyes, such as at a public wifi spot or a cyber cafe, then you need to type in https://www.gmail.com instead of the regular http://www.gmail.com. But what if you forget, and maybe unknowingly compromise your credit card number?

Thankfully, now you can let Google do the remember-my-https part. Introduced under the 'General' tab of Gmail 'Settings', you can now find a setting for "Browser Connection". You can select here for Gmail to automatically switch to https everytime. This works even if you visit Gmail from your bookmarks.



More detailed help is always available from the Gmail https help page.

How often do you rely on GMAIL's https feature? Feel free to comment on this post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 15 Software For Daily Use

There are a lot of options available to choose from amongst software, applications and tools. One might be tempted and want to try out and play with a lot of them, but at the end of the day, which software do you find yourself coming back to? Here are some software I usually come back to.

I use my Windows computer to accomplish a number of tasks such as communication, education, entertainment, job work, hobbies and more. To help me do what I need to, a plethora of software choice is available today. I tend to have my personal wish list/checklist which guides me to use the software which best suites needs. In this article I have consolidated the software I use, and which I consider as the best software for my need. Though I might have preferences, but the software I choose might be retail, free or Open Source

Code/Text Editor: Notepad++
URL: http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm
Price: FREE

A great editor which can edit text intelligently. It is quite customizable, though it works great out of the box for me. It comes ready to provide text coloring for HTML, PHP, HTML, XML, ASP, C#, Python, Ruby, SQL and more. It can even format XML document, and check for its well formness. Notepad++ also allows you to search for a string inside any number of files residing in a folder(this, by the way, Windows fails to do out of the box). Do you have a long listing of code? Using Notepad++ you can easily creates markers and then you can jump around your code quickly. It has incremental search, macros, plug-in and tonnes of other useful features. Above all, its not heavy and works fast and can save my session too!

Antivirus: NOD32
URL: http://www.eset.com
Price: $64.5

I have been using computers from the days of Nashot antivirus and even before that when we used to have a big PCI slot based hardware antivirus card. So I have used my share of antivirus tools all from Symantec, Mcafee etc. Since long, I have been a patron of Norton, but slowly i started feeling that Norton was getting obese. No offence to anybody, and with highest regards to Symantec I do not doubt it's capabilities at all, but I feel that its no longer value for money for me. It uses a lot of my system resources in comparison to some other competitors. Every release just seems to make it bigger and heavier, with perhaps a new box art. Again, I have not used the latest version so please free to check it out, but this is my personal opinion. Anyway after my hunt for an alternative, I stumbled upon NOD32. It seems that NOD23 has not spent much on marketing, but more on where it matters. It sports a blazing fast scan engine, with detecting and cure rates, not less than what Norton and Mcafee offer.

The download size is about 20 MB.

Compression: WinRAR
URL: http://www.rarlab.com
Price: $21

WinZip has been a staple now since long, but WinRAR is better as per me. It offers better compression ratio and speed to begin with (which, is all that should matter perhaps). Using WinRAR you can split a file in multiple parts, which might be useful for transmission over internet if one of the side has slower download speeds. You can even make WinRAR insert special code in the split parts, so that even if there has been a corrupt download, there are chances of winRAR reconstructing the file.

WinRAR has special algorithms for multimedia files, so promises a better compression there too. WinRAR has other ways to try and squeeze the files more for example by working on all the files as a single file instead of separate files. This way it might find compressible patterns which were not present earlier. As a bonus, WinRAR supports lots of other useful formats including WinZip, ISO and more.

Download size is about 1.2 MB.

FTP: FileZilla
URL: http://filezilla-project.org
Price: Free

I need to use FTP number of times. Sometimes to updates my websites, sometimes to transfer a big file to some friend, or sometime just to download something. FileZilla serves me perfectly on this. It can do wall what is expected from a good capable and reliable FTP client.

For the power users, FileZilla also offers FileZilla Server application.

It's download size is about 3 MB.


Email: Gmail

URL: http://www.gmail.com/
Price: FREE

I have jumped from Hotmail to Rediffmail to Yahoo, and GMAIL is where I am stuck at the moment. I have lots of reasons for that such as great speed, simplistic yet thoughtful design, ability to manage your mail better by using labels, integrated Google Chat and Calendar, Lots of storage, threaded conversations, simply excellent Spam filter and POP3/IMAP access to name a few. If you are still not using GMAIL, you should definitely give it a try.

Browser: Firefox
URL: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/firefox/
Price: FREE

An excellent web browser which blazing webpage rendering speed, and with very useful features. One good aspect of Firefox is of the add-on community, which continuously enhance Firefox's capabilities. And yes, I wrote this article from within Firefox 3.

Word Processing & Spreadsheet: : Microsoft Word and Excel
URL: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/FX101211561033.aspx
Price: $499.95

No need for an introduction here. Each version really does improve, and even though a bit bulky installation now, but the features, capabilities and reliability offered is superb. I prefer these for heavy duty work, or for office work, where documents need to be archived and worked upon. Excel is extremely powerful and capable, offering complex calculation, charts and functionalities.

Image Manager: Picasa
URL: http://picasa.google.com/
Price: FREE

I being a shutter happy type of a guy, love to shoot people or anything which catches my photographic attention. Result being a truck load of digital photographs. It was getting difficult to manage them, and more importantly to find the ones I was looking for until I tried Picasa. Picasa indexes all the snaps, even the ones on your external hard disk and organizes them nicely. You can locate snaps by a timeline of being shot, or by the folder/image names. You can add keywords and captions to each photographs, which help further in finding just the snap you were searching for. Additionally if you later choose to upload your snap to Google Picasa Web Albums, then these captions get transferred to your online snaps automagically!

It would not do justice if I do not mention that Picasa does much more than what I just wrote. Well, believe it or not but you can do superb quick fixes to your snaps to get a professional edit of your snap quickly. Fix red-eyes, straighten a snap, crop, saturate, improve contrast and more easily. The real icing on the cake is that Picasa does not actually alter your original snap until you specifically tell it to. So all edits to a photograph are non-destructive and are stored in a separate file, until you want Picasa to merge the changes, even then a backup of original snaps is made. Nice.

Personal and Collaborative office applications: Google Docs
URL: http://docs.google.com
Price: FREE

When it comes to creating my personal documents, I have slowly started drifting towards Google Docs. It offers working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Though not yet as powerful as Microsoft Office, it does offers 90% of the features I need for my personal use. What's more, I can start working on a document at home, and seamlessly continue it in my office, or for that matter anywhere in the world. I can use the nifty Spreadsheet to create nice looking graphs, and if required, can simply share my document online for others to contribute. I can even publish my document read-only and then anybody can see my document from a url. All this, almost at the click of a button. Plus, being from the Google stable, all my documents are completely searchable.

Though I would not be able to cover the loads of useful and thoughtful features offered here, but now I can use Google Apps even without internet, and can import and export from the common file formats such as doc, xls and PDF.

p.s. This article was written as a Google Docs document :)

AntiSpyware: SpyBot-S&D
URL: http://www.safer-networking.org/index2.html
Price: FREE

A free tool which can immunize your PC and search and fix a number of Trojans, spywares and malicious scripts. Must have. This is a slightly bigger download at about 14 MB, but worth it for a clean computing environment, where you know that nobody is sniffing your credit card numbers.

Temporary File Cleaner: CCleaner
URL: http://www.ccleaner.com/
Price: FREE

A quick and painless tool to hunt your system to safely free hundreds of MBs by deleting earmarked safe to delete files. The download is about 2.8 MB.

CCleaner can also be supplemented by users to add custom applications.

Operating System: Vista Ultimate
URL: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/default.aspx
Price: $219.95

I have been using Windows since Windows 3.1, have used XP since long, and agree even before you say that Vista sure had a bit bigger share of issues, but still here are some reasons I liked Vista for. Vista installs fast, it is very reliable, has great self diagnostics(it crashed once, but on next boot it check on the net and told me that my video driver was the cause and was not up to date, which I promptly updated), has a very useful Start search feature(I use Launchy on Windows XP as an alternative), is a pleasure to use. We should understand that Vista was Microsoft’s move to perhaps lay roads for the next generation architecture. Hope for more in future :)

Download Manager: Flashget
URL: http://www.flashget.com/en/download.htm
Price: FREE

Somehow the best download speeds and result I got were from Flashget. It can resume broken downloads, download from multiple mirrors and get that file to you with a better end experience. Recommended. This just a 4.4 MB download.

Torrent Client: uTorrent
URL: Please search on Google.
Price: FREE

Every now and then you may need to share a huge file with your friends and for other related uses, there comes a need for a good and capable torrrent client. For that, I find the above mentioned tool as the best. It focuses on what it does, and does what it claims to.

Text Compare: Beyond Compare
URL: http://www.scootersoftware.com/
Price: $30

Whenever I have two text files or folders containing them, which need comparison, find that Beyond Compare almost always works great for me. It can quickly go through the files and show me how and where they are different. It understand language differences, and knows that an HTML comment is different from a JSP comment. It can compare file using languages rules, binary comparision and file checksum. Good to have at about 2.5 MB.


I intend to update this article with time, but do let me know if you have other such tools which you install or use as soon as you setup a new computer. These are the tool/software you really are addicted to for daily life. And no Windows vs Linux fights please :)

Please note that this article is just my own rambling on what I feel as best for me and you are free to evaluate and feel otherwise.

Do feel free to contact me if you find any inaccuracies or problem with the article and I will promptly try to fix it. Thanks for stopping by.