technology

Many of us can discuss the latest sports news with vigor, debate the crazy lifestyles of our favorite celebrities, and argue the fine points of politics and public policy, but we are often blissfully ignorant about how our dependence on the Internet has made us vulnerable to attacks that can close our banks, disrupt our communications, shut down our utilities, and otherwise destroy much of what makes our life possible in the 21st century.

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There are several excellent websites that provide information and evaluations of free software. One very popular site that has a large and loyal following is ilovefreesoftware.com. What makes I Love Free Software so popular are the constantly updated listings covering a variety of operating systems and applications. In addition to listing each title, a comprehensive review and evaluation is posted such that the viewer can fully understand the functionality of each free item prior to downloading the file.

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Regular readers of this column are well aware that digital books (eBooks) are making tremendous inroads in the publishing industry. With the purchase of millions of e-readers, along with smart phones, tablets and other digital devices, the market for eBooks has exploded. Several companies including Amazon and Barnes & Noble have introduced dedicated readers such as the Kindle and the Nook that allow the user to carry an entire library of books and magazines in a lightweight, thin electronic device.

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There has been a recent buzz in the blogs about Adobe possibly releasing full, registered copies of their popular software products for free. A reader of this column sent me a link a few days ago that appeared to be an authentic Adobe website that offered full copies of its “Creative Suite 2” (CS2) software for free, including license codes.

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I was recently helping a disabled Vietnam veteran with a not so unusual problem. He wanted to be able to watch live streaming sports events for free. His favorite free streaming live sports website now showed a frightening image stating that the domain had been seized by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for copyright infringement. Since he was living on his disability income, money was in short supply and the various legitimate subscription websites were beyond his means.

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I frequently hear about Internet users who always clean all of their cookies, citing fears of privacy issues or identity theft. If I ask some of those users what an Internet cookie is, I receive a variety of replies indicating a multiplicity of definitions varying from somewhat accurate to wildly inaccurate. There is equal misunderstanding about the functions of cookies and the degree of risk they pose to the user.

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While almost all major security products implement a variety of techniques to protect against unknown malware, so called “zero day” attacks have been especially successful in penetrating most security utilities.

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It should be no surprise that smart computing devices are outselling traditional desktop and laptop computers. There is an intensive battle for market share of operating systems for these smart devices, which includes smart phones, tablets and related devices. The primary combatants are Google with its Android operating system, Apple with its iOS, and Microsoft with its newly released Windows 8 version for smart devices.

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I am fully cognizant of the level of frustration and anger when a hard drive or other mass storage device fails. While I am personally careful to keep contemporary backups of all of the critical data on all of my computers, all too often I receive calls of despair from individuals whose computer “crashed” and they are convinced that they have lost all of their important information. In some cases the alleged “crash” is not really a catastrophic hard drive failure, but a recoverable error or problem due to either hardware or software issues.

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One of the popular categories of PC software is the type that can perform comprehensive system analysis and repair, probably leading to improved system performance. There are quite a few of these utilities available, both as freeware and as paid commercial products. Many of these utilities have previously been reviewed in this column with comments from readers indicating a general high level of satisfaction with most of them.

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