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1  Other Software / Found Deals and Discounts / Re: PhraseExpander Professional for PC 79% off $29.99 on: August 23, 2015, 11:04:36 AM
Note the following for this $29.99 discount license:

Restrictions: license includes a single download for a single user; to use on two computers, customers will need to purchase two licenses.

The regular $149.99 license can be expanded to 3 computers for $20.
2  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Mozilla to replace add-ons with Chrome compatible extensions on: August 22, 2015, 11:11:32 AM
Mozilla has announced that they will be replacing add-ons with a new WebExtensions API that will be compatible with Chrome and Opera. XPCOM and XUL will be deprecated and all developers expected to convert their add-ons to the new API within the next year.

As part of this transition, beginning with Firefox 41, due to be released September 22, 2015, only add-ons signed by Mozilla will work with the browser.

You can read the Mozilla announcement here.

3  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Is Windows 10 a trojan? on: August 17, 2015, 06:35:10 AM
A P2P protocol like BitTorrent saves bandwidth on servers distributing to many clients. It does not save anything on clients.  Think about it: each client is still receiving the same amount of data - more, actually, because of the additional overhead involved in P2P.

So WUDO helps Microsoft save bandwidth, but it has little or no benefit for users if they leave the "PCs on the Internet" option checked.  If WUDO limited to PCs on an internal network works as it should (you'd have to trust Microsoft on that one), it could be helpful, but remember that it bypasses any internal controls or checks.

P2P is inherently not very secure, even if the proprietary BitTorrent protocol has no known vulnerabilities . I don't know of any security conscious organization that allows BitTorrent or similar P2P systems to distribute internally anything that comes from outside sources directly.

The proper way to redistribute software internally - and the way any responsible administrator does it - is to download a redistributable to one system, check it, and then redistribute it.  Microsoft provides this capability for nearly everything you can get from their site. Just look for the IT and tech support versions.
4  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Is Windows 10 a trojan? on: August 15, 2015, 12:21:00 PM
I’ve been highly critical of the many ways Windows 10 compromises users’ privacy,  but this article by Steven Auerbach in Slate is an eye opener as to just how awful the situation really is.

It is bad enough that Microsoft sees fit to capture every bit of data about you that it can. It is something else for them to turn your computer into a node in a peer-to-peer system for distributing Microsoft products.  But that is exactly what they are doing with Windows Update Delivery Optimization (WUDO), if you do not find and turn off the obscure option to get updates from and send updates to other PCs.

At the very least, this is theft of bandwidth. But it also appears that by default, Windows 10 effectively turns users' computers into nodes in a Microsoft botnet.

5  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Security: Stagefright Vulnerability (Android) on: August 14, 2015, 02:39:03 PM
OTA's to fix the vulnerability have already gone out - got them yesterday on both Nexus 7 (2013) and Nexus 10.  The original Nexus 7 (2012) and older Nexus devices are no longer on the Android update schedule and will not be getting patches from Google.
6  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: So, what pdf reader app is your fav? on: August 14, 2015, 02:27:36 PM
Quote from: Tracker Software Products
Note: For those users that would still like to use the licensed "PRO" version of PDF-XChange Viewer, the Serial keys for PDF-XChange Editor, PDF-Tools and PDF-XChange Pro are compatible for directly unlocking the "Pro" features of the Viewer.

^...hehe; "you're welcome to use this $25 program, if you pay us $44 or more"   Wink

This is actually a good deal because it allows you to use the viewer in pro mode in addition to the editor, tools or pro versions if you have a license for any of the latter.  Among other things, the viewer comes in a portable version, which the others do not.
7  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The end of the hard disk on: August 13, 2015, 04:04:56 PM
Samsung has just introduced a 15.36 TB SSD in a standard 2.5 inch form factor.  That's over 50% greater capacity than the largest hard disk drive available today.

8  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on: August 13, 2015, 11:04:18 AM
According to this article in Ars Technica, Windows 10 sends information identifying individual systems to Microsoft whenever one is online, regardless of privacy settings.

This really isn't all that much different from how Android and iOS operate, but you expect that from phones and tablets that depend on the cloud for much of their functionality.  A personal computer is a different matter altogether.
9  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Preloaded spyware, courtesy Lenovo on: August 13, 2015, 10:48:23 AM
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.....

Lenovo used Windows anti-theft feature to install persistent crapware
10  Other Software / Found Deals and Discounts / Paragon HDM Pro 50% off at BDJ on: August 11, 2015, 06:48:06 AM
Paragon Backup and Recovery Compact is advertised for free today on BitsDuJour, but if you look at the list of products offered at the bottom of the page, there is also a link for Paragon Hard Disk Manager Professional 15 at 50% off ($49.95).  HDM Pro includes the functionality of just about every disk utility program Paragon offers.

FWIW, if past experience is anything to go by, a new version will come out before the end of the year, with a 50% off upgrade offer for registered users.
11  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on: August 06, 2015, 01:56:40 PM
I'm sure most DCers have read 1984. The direction we're heading seems so obvious.
More than "1984," which is about oppressive government, I'd suggest reading "The Space Merchants" by Pohl and Kornbluth, which is about where unfettered commercialism, and advertising in particular, can lead the world.
12  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on: August 06, 2015, 11:14:26 AM
In today's Register, Andrew Orlowski describes "the indiscriminate data slurp that Microsoft calls Windows 10 [as] basically a clumsy, 3GB keylogger."  My feelings exactly!

I will probably have to use W10 eventually, if only to support new hardware, but I'll wait until intrepid pioneers have worked out the details of dealing with the privacy issues.  Remember, a pioneer is the guy lying there with a bunch of arrows in his back.
13  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The end of the hard disk on: July 29, 2015, 10:32:08 PM
Just over a month ago,  when I started this thread, my thinking was that a decade from now, hard disks would still be around, but only for low cost offline storage.

The announcement last week by Intel and Micron of what they call 3D Xpoint memory technology has changed that.  This is non-volatile memory capable of densities up to 10 times greater than NAND, byte-addressable (unlike NAND, which is addressed in blocks) and as fast as DRAM.

Intel+Micron claim that this is not a lab concept, but a product which they expect to bring to market within a year.  If so, I'd expect NAND prices to fall even faster and SSDs to become the standard for low cost offline storage. I'd also expect that a decade from now, nobody will even be making HDDs.

14  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: I'm ready to join the HTPC (home theater pc) revolution - what to get? on: July 23, 2015, 09:37:19 PM
Earlier this year, I replaced a desktop PC that I had been using as an HTPC with this Zotac ZBOX-BI320-U-W2. I paid under $200 at the time.  It comes with a licensed copy of 64-bit Windows 8.1 preloaded on a 64GB SSD.  It has 2GB of RAM installed and supports up to 16GB, but the since the installed memory is on a single DIMM with one slot free, you can upgrade to 6GB very cheaply just by adding a 4GB laptop DIMM. The pre-installed SSD is an mSATA card, leaving the internal SATA slot free, so you can install a 2.5" HDD or SSD for additional internal storage. 

I'm very pleased with the unit.  It's tiny, completely silent and worked right out of the box without any hassles. Even installing additional RAM and an HDD was easy enough for a complete novice. It feels much snappier than the nominally much more powerful Core-2 Duo system it replaced.  While it may not be up to multitasking multiple browsers and desktop applications, it has no problem running any kind of multimedia, including streaming HD-video.  The integrated HDMI port supports 5.1 surround sound nicely through my receiver, which is actually more important to me than video, and with 4 USB 3.0 ports plus Gigabit Ethernet, it can connect to anything I want.

In the past, I've tended to recycle older systems for multimedia purposes, but this has been so much easier that I doubt I'll ever do that again.
15  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Patch your Flash! Version (July 08, 2015) on: July 18, 2015, 01:05:52 PM
Or if you don't want to abide by Adobe's goofy insistence on trying to bundle McAfee software and want to be able to install Adobe Flash while not connected to the internet, go here:
Actually it's McAfee if you go to the Adobe site with Firefox or IE. If you go there with Opera it tries to install Chrome and make it your default browser.  I don't use Chrome, so I don't know what they try to stick you with if you do.

The link above gives you the current full distribution version, but that can be quickly out of date as new vulnerabilities are found and patched - almost daily, it seems, so you need to download it again each time there is a patch.

What you get from the regular Flash update page is actually a stub that goes to Adobe, downloads the latest installer and launches it.  There are stub versions available, with and without crapware, for the various combinations of plug-in types: Netscape (Firefox and other Mozilla derivatives), Chromium (Chrome, Opera, etc.) and ActiveX (IE) and OS versions.  The stub deletes itself after launching the installer, forcing you to download it again each time you update, giving Adobe another chance to trick you.  The stubs only change for major version changes, not for each security patch/update.

What I do to keep Flash updated is to keep a set of the no-crapware stubs locally. When I hear of a new security patch, I just copy the appropriate stubs to the software install folder on each system I want to update and run them. That automatically installs the latest updates without my having to go back to Adobe's site to select anything. I find this easier and less error-prone than downloading a full new version each time.


16  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: PayPal about to claim rights in all IP sold/licensed using PayPal for payments on: July 13, 2015, 03:53:06 PM
PayPal has retreated on robocalls.

If you have a PayPal account, you should have received an email with the following BS clarification:

We value our relationship with you and work hard to communicate clearly. Recently, however, we did not live up to our own standards.

Earlier this year, we sent you an email about updates that we planned to make to our User Agreement on July 1, 2015. The User Agreement is a document we share to help you understand your relationship with PayPal and the obligations we both have.

Unfortunately, some of the language in this update caused confusion and concern with some of our customers about how we may contact you.

To clear up any confusion, we have modified the terms of Section 1.10 of our User Agreement. The new language is intended to make it clear that PayPal primarily uses autodialed or prerecorded calls and texts to:

  •     Help detect, investigate and protect our customers from fraud
  •     Provide notices to our customers regarding their accounts or account activity
  •     Collect a debt owed to us

In addition, the new Section 1.10(a) and 1.10(b) makes it clear that:

  •     We will not use autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts to contact our customers for marketing purposes without prior express written consent.
  •     Customers can continue to enjoy our products and services without needing to consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts.
  •     We respect our customers' communications preferences and recognize that their consent is required for certain autodialed and prerecorded calls and texts. Customers may revoke consent to receive these communications by contacting PayPal customer support and informing us of their preferences.

17  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Partitioning or Not w. single HDD? on: July 09, 2015, 01:52:24 PM
But a good partition scheme can make a difference in safety and recoverability from disaster.

I fail to see how. In all the years I've been doing this stuff, I've seen machines eaten up with all sorts of failures and maladies. But I've never once ran into a situation where extra partitions would have made a difference. Either the drive is still spinning, or there are valid backups available ... Or the drive stopped dead, the backups don't exist, and the party in question is quite royally screwed.
15-20 years ago, when a hard disk over 80GB was considered huge, my working computer tended to be a tower with 2-3 drives, and I would back up my system disk by imaging the whole drive.

My working computer for the past dozen years has been a small form factor machine with a single much larger drive, currently 2TB.  It is partitioned because I can backup a full image of a 100GB system partition to another partition on the same disk in less than 30 minutes, whereas imaging a 2TB drive, or even a 500GB drive would take many times longer and require an external device.

This means I always have a recent full image backup of my system partition.  It also means I never have to reinstall the OS, since I can simply restore from an image, and since the images are reasonably small (<20GB), I can keep a number of them.

I don't recall the last time I had to replace a system disk because of drive failure.  Probably not since MS-DOS 5.  On the other hand, there have been plenty of times that the easiest way to recover from a software installation gone awry, a possible virus, or just a bad Windows update, has been to restore the last good image of the system partition.

18  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Partitioning or Not w. single HDD? on: July 08, 2015, 10:07:53 AM
Modern hard drives, particularly large ones, have pretty sophisticated caching and data management built into their firmware, so partitioning won’t usually have a huge impact on performance. But a good partition scheme can make a difference in safety and recoverability from disaster.

I used to do a lot of work on tight deadlines, so I always operated with the idea that if my system went down, I could pick up and finish what I was working on before anything else.

On desktop systems, I partition the HDD into 3 logical drives as follows:

C: is for critical files, including the OS, installed software and important files, including current work files, email and financial data, which I also keep duplicated on my laptop. This is about 100-120GB under Windows 7. Windows Recovery is turned off, but the drive is imaged at least once a month.

D: is for most other data, including multimedia, reference materials and VMs.

E: is for extended data storage, which includes software installation files, CD/DVD images and backup images of the system drive.  This is omitted on laptops.

Actually, I now use an SSD for C, so the HDD is just partitioned into D and E. When C was on the hard disk, I defragmented it often, but that is no longer necessary. I don’t image or defragment D or E, but I do keep their contents duplicated on external drives.
19  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The end of the hard disk on: July 07, 2015, 09:38:41 AM
Yesterday, Samsung introduced 2 new 2T SSDs with MSRPs of $800 and $1,000.

That's about 10 times the current price of a 2TB laptop drive, but these SSD's are in a 7mm form factor, meaning that they will fit in slim laptops, unlike 2TB HDDs, which are all 9.5mm or greater.  Furthermore, they have 5 and 10 year warranties and are rated at 150TB and 300TB writes respectively, which works out to about 80GB of writes every 24 hours for the rated life of the drive.  No laptop drive has more than a 3 year warranty and most have only 1 year.

250GB SSDs are currently selling for under $80 and 500GB SSDs under $175 at retail, and are both faster and more resilient than rotating memory, so it's clear that you won't see HDDs in portable computers much longer.
20  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Be prepared against ransomware viruses.. on: June 27, 2015, 11:12:54 AM
I wonder if there's a really simple way to save all your files in an unusual fashion that the computer can read quite easily normally, but then the malware virus can't find them properly and tanks.
Cryptoware cannot encrypt everything since that would simply disable the victim's computer. Instead, it targets specific file types that are associated with documents, media and other data.

All the cryptoware I am aware of uses file extensions to determine the files it will encrypt, which means there is in fact a simple way to protect most data:

Use 7-Zip, RAR, or some such program to create an encrypted archive of the files you want to protect, then change the extension to something not likely to be targeted.   Cryptoware will not target .exe or .dll files since that might disable the system, but something like .cryptic is likely to be just as good.  The archive should be in some format like rar or 7z that provides good security and is less likely than zip to be identifiable by a header scan, if the bad guys get a little more ambitious about identifying data.

21  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Be prepared against ransomware viruses.. on: June 27, 2015, 10:50:00 AM
There is some frequently updated information on the Microsoft Malware Protection Center about ransomware, including which types are currently most active and recommendations about dealing with certain specific ones.

Some of the older ransomware can be defeated, although most of the newer ones cannot. Nonetheless, before panicking, you should try to find out as much as possible about exactly what you are dealing with and follow up on any information you can get about it.

22  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The end of the hard disk on: June 26, 2015, 10:45:50 AM
I will be shocked if these predictions come true.  That is, if SSD's have capacities like 8TB or 16TB in 2016, I will be very shocked.  I'm talking at a reasonable cost, even enterprise cost.  anywhere under $1000 will be shocking to me.  Second, I will also be shocked if enterprise level applications will forego getting SSD's to replace mechanical drives by 2016.  For example, if cloud storage providers start using SSD's like that, I will be very surprised.

Not saying it's not possible, just that a jump like that so soon would be crazy.  Have we just been sitting on the technology all this time?

To be honest, I also find that time line unrealistic -- tech writers have a habit of making overly optimistic predictions -- but even if it takes a few years more, the writing is on the wall for the HDD, except as an inexpensive  long-term storage device.

Intel is the major supplier of PCIe board SSDs to major data center users, and their most recent prediction is that they will have 10TB enterprise class SSD boards available by 2018.

Intel already sells 1.2TB PCIe boards for under $1,000 in bulk. 2TB boards now cost several times as much, but that should change quickly as other vendors start to compete in that space.  SanDisk has announced that they will be selling an external 2TB SSD in a portable HDD form factor to the consumer market for under $1,000 this year.

A variety of new flash memory technologies are poised to drive the price/capacity ratio down dramatically.  What is holding them up is the ability to manufacture them reliably in large quantities, but a lot of really big players (Intel/Micron, SanDisk, Samsung, Toshiba) are competing fiercely to get there first.
23  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The end of the hard disk on: June 24, 2015, 12:34:29 PM
Around 1000USD a pop you have now decently sized hard disks that work according to SSD principles, but instead of using SATA, they use the PCI-Express lanes of your motherboard. If you think SSD's (or SSD's in RAID) are fast...these puppies run 4 to 5 times faster than SSD drives (at their top speed) in most usage scenarios. If you want really fast servers that have no problems shifting mountains of data around, SSD's are already old hat.

Sorry to disillusion you, but the devices you are talking about are SSDs, not hard disks.  The difference is that the flash memory and controller are mounted directly to a PCIe card rather than enclosed in a SATA case to allow swapping with HDDs.

Actual hard disks are limited to a 6GB/s transfer rate because that is the fastest you can pull data off of a rotating memory device.  That is why the SATA-III interface tops out at 6GB/s.  Flash memory does not have the same limitations and by mounting it directly on a PCIe card, you avoid the bottleneck of the SATA interface.

24  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The End of my Macbook Pro Experiment on: June 23, 2015, 03:14:06 PM
The thing that really peeved me looking at them was the fact that they were all "new technology", i.e. SSD.  And I just don't trust an SSD as my only HDD, and the fact that you wouldn't get enough space... I want a minimum of 500GB, which in SSD is exorbitantly expensive.

As I noted here yesterday, SSD capacities are growing and prices are dropping rapidly, leading some analysts to predict the demise of the HDD altogether within a few years.

As of today, you can get a 500GB SSD from Samsung or Crucial for about $175, and Samsung gives you a 5 year warranty. That's still several times the cost of a 500GB HDD, but no manufacturer will give more than a 3 year warranty on any HDD and most won't give more than 1 year. That tells you everything you need to know about the reliability of the current generation of SSDs.  And of course, in a laptop, an SSD has the advantage of being impervious to shocks and magnetic fields.

25  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / The end of the hard disk on: June 22, 2015, 05:57:31 PM
According to Information Week, the end of 2015 will see SSDs with greater capacity than any hard disks currently available and SSDs are expected to be cost competitive with hard disks by the end of 2016.

Even if these projections are a little optimistic, particularly with respect to the consumer market, it seems clear that the hard disk will soon be going the way of the floppy disk.

It won't be missed.
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