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Messages - tranglos [ switch to compact view ]

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1001
General Software Discussion / Re: SyncBackSE vs. SuperFlexible
« on: November 07, 2007, 08:20 PM »
Thank, Tomos. I've tried DirSync, and it's nice enough, but doesn't do the true real-time mirroring that MirrorFolder does. Though the latter has its own quirks and I'm still trying it out. My external USB drive has just had a series of interesting write failures which may be attributable to MirrorFolder's device driver - Windows telling me delayed write to the external drive failed, after which it wouldn't even read directory contents right and had to be powered down. It's only a hunch, but my guess is that MirrorFolder's device driver hooks up each and every read/write operation, and it may have choked on something, since I was copying gigabytes of data to the USB drive and reading from it at the same time. It's the first time I've seen it happen, so I'm suspecting MF.

FileHamster and 12 Ghosts - I'm off to try them right now. Other than that, I've made up my mind to buy this little piece of hardware:
http://www.extremete...,1697,2091770,00.asp
With that, I'll be able to mirror all of my data and keep multiple versions of some of it, and while it's still vulnerable to theft, at least it won't fry if the main machine ever does. (Never happened to me, but on a friend's machine the power supply went all blue smoke and took everything with it, including two hard drives).

And just for completeness' sake - WebDrive is really nice in what it does, great to have an ftp account available as a drive letter at all times. The only problem with it so far - uploading one file in the background takes up exactly 50% of my Core2 Due 2,6 GHz; uploading two files concurrently takes 100%. This is excessive, and WebDrive doesn't seem to have a configurable priority setting. I wonder if there's a way to permanently mark a process low-priority in the Task Manager...




1002
General Software Discussion / Re: SyncBackSE vs. SuperFlexible
« on: November 05, 2007, 04:24 PM »
Since I built a new machine last month, I've been going through various backup tools like Google goes through startups :) And to DBC's question I must say, none of the above. So far, it's been none of the above to all I've tried, and I'm trying to figure out what it is about backup that no-one can get it quite right (at least not for my needs).

Since all the strong points of various backup/synchronize apps have been discussed pretty thoroughly before, let me just list the major weaknesses I've found:

SuperFlexible

- I find the interface awful. I know I should be dragged over hot coals for saying so, since most people here have lauded what they consider a well laid-out interface... well, I think it's horrid. For one thing, it's too crowded. (Have the authors given any though to localization? The Run button has space for exactly three characters. In Polish we need seven.) The pane that lists jobs is much too small if you want to have meaningful names for the backups. The profusion of tabs, horizontal and vertical, with options that are mutually exclusive, but you never find out until you try to run a job, because the program does not consistently grey out settings unavailable in a given context. The one-click menus - who puts Exit as a top-level menu item? (Joel Spolsky once wrote a whole usability article on just this one UI design mistake.)

Also, by not using a separate editing mode, the program makes it easy to make an accidental change to a backup profile, and when it then asks to save the changes, I don't know what changed and why, since I didn't intend to change anything, and cannot easily see what has changed and cancel the changes. With this number of configurable settings, a program must be really considerate to the user and very clear about what is being done and to what. To me, the UI in SFFS is chaos, which is unforgivable in a tool whose only purpose is to give me peace of mind, an assurance of my files being secure.

- The help file says it cannot encrypt zip files when target is what they call z "zip package" (which is just a zip file to most people :) This appears to be wrong, because the program does produce an encrypted zip file (using zip password), although TotalCommander is unable to extract files from the resulting zip, which gives me a pause.

- The scheduler has me totally confused. I have to start the scheduler manually, otherwise backup jobs won't run - how good is that? Once the scheduler is running, I cannot view the backup jobs or edit them until I disable the scheduler (again, manually, and the program helpfully asks me to "Also, please close this message window"). If the authors ever come across "About Face", a book on UI design by Alan Cooper, they will find themselves very, very ashamed, and I mean it. Yet this is not just a UI design issue - it's a critical failure of reliability, because none of the backup jobs will run if I forget to turn on the scheduler, e.g. after tweaking a profile.

(Aside: I've had it with programs that install their own scheduler services. I now have four of those running: Acronis, PerfectDisk, Avira updater, and one other I forget. I am torn between disabling them and losing important functionality, or allowing them to run and consume about 30 MB total just for what should be tiny timers. Windows has a perfectly good scheduler, which everyone should use - if you want to have your own, at least make it an option, like Backup4All does. Ugh!)

- Zip file handling, high weirdness. By default SFFS insists on zipping each file individually - expect fun manually unzipping thousands of files, one by one, if you ever need to access the backup without SFFS! And when you tell it to create a "package" it still puts large files unzipped, in separate folders, unless you specify high enough values for two options (Start new package after and Max file size). Would have to repeat this for every backup job, as there seems to be no way to just tell it to put all the files in a single zip file and shut up about it already...

No redemption for SFFS, even though it is capable and it is fast. Moving on...

SyncBack SE

Dead simple here: it will not compress or encrypt backups to FTP. It seems to be the only (major, popular) backup program with this limitation. Compression is of course important for bandwidth and FTP disk space, which isn't always cheap. Encryption though is simply critical, because an FTP server at a third-party ISP is much more vulnerable to break-ins and abuse (including by their own employees) than my home machine. I cannot put important personal data on FTP unencrypted.

When I contacted 2BrightSparks about it, first they told me I was wrong and SyncBack could zip to FTP. Then I sent them a screenshot of the program saying "Compression is disabled because you are using FTP", and was given a workaround: create one profile to zip up files locally, then another profile to backup the zip file to FTP. This is a workable solution, but it adds complexity to an already complex scenario.

Backup4All

What I've been using for about a year, chosen mostly because of the clear interface. As many have observed, it is slow - slow enough to give Delphi a bad name. I'd love to have a peek at the source code, Delphi apps are not normally that sluggish! It's not just the backup jobs that run slow, the whole application does. I run all backup jobs at the lowest priority setting, which means they take even longer to run, but at least then they don't clog both CPUs :) I find it does FTP and encryption very well, although I've had major problems with firewalls. (I had to drop Outpost after three years of use, simply because it would not work with Backup4All, no matter what. One day it let ftp through, another day it did not, while other FTP clients ran fine.)

Among other issues, weak error handling. Any FTP problems result in "connection error", regardless of what actually happened. I once mistyped the server name, so the error was a DNS failure, and it took me a few minutes to spot the typo, where the program should have told me exactly what was wrong. Also, you have to dig for any errors in the logfile, without any markup or highlighting - so I am never 100% certain if my backups are running smoothly, and that's a big deal for me. (A backup profile signals errors with a special icon, which is great, but you are mostly on your own trying to find what went wrong.)

No way to initiate a backup whenever a file or a folder changes. (This is really a weakness of Windows' scheduler, but Backup4All doesn't offer this option even when you choose to use its own scheduler).

Cannot pause a running backup job or temporarily suspend it (except directly in Windows scheduler).

The worst issue for me, Backup4All will not make up for missed jobs. The author advised me to run the computer 24/7 if I didn't want any jobs missed. Well, I will, the day the author starts chipping in for my electricity bills :) Again, no security in my backups, just because I had to leave home, switched off the machine and an important profile didn't run.

Poor versioning support, though no backup program I've seen does it any better. You can either back up frequently, and have lots of very recent backups, or backup rarely, and be able to go further back in time, but with gaps. (That is, unless you want to back up like every hour AND keep unlimited number of versions, which would eat up disk space like mad).

What I'd love to see is what Time Machine does on OS X: keep hourly backups for the last 24 hours, keep daily backups for the last month, and keep weekly backups for all previous months. No, let me make this big and loud, because this is what versioning looks done right:

Keep hourly backups for the last 24 hours, keep daily backups for the last month, and keep weekly backups for all previous months

Backup software vendors, is it too hard to do?


HandyBackup Pro

Haven't tried this one yet. I'd love to hear comments on it. The feature list looks good, but so did many others. It's expensive ($99), and there are two different versions of the product homepage (handybackup.net, handybackup.com), with conflicting information about features. One of the pages lists "open file backup" and "modified file backup" as "coming soon", which isn't very comforting, at that price.

So after all that bile let me mention two backup-related apps I've found to be fantastic:

WebDrive http://www.webdrive.com/ Makes a permanent, secure FTP connection (also supports WebDav and a few other protocols) and assigns it a drive letter. This could help a lot with backup programs that make fuss about FTP, since they won't know any better). It optionally caches files on the local drive, so access is really smooth, and has its own simple backup/synchronize tool. Bought it yesterday ($59, not cheap), love it.

MirrorFolder http://www.techsoftpl.com/backup/index.php There are many real-time mirroring apps, but this one has won me over. It has a somewhat dated interface and doesn't look powerful at all until you click Options for the mirror, which is where I became impressed. And it works, too - any change to the source is instantly reflected in the mirror. Open or locked files are no problem. It's a relatively small program, has no perceptible effect on system performance. The service takes about 7 MB, so it's not tiny, but it seems to be highly reliable. I'm not sure if mirroring is the right thing for me, since if you make a bad change and save it, the mirror will go bad too (although MirrorFolder can also zip up previous versions of the mirrors it creates on schedule). I absolutely love how it works though and am severely tempted to buy it first and find a use for it later :)

I apologize if I've stepped on anyone's favorite program's toes, as I probably have...

1003
General Software Discussion / Re: Which MP3 tagger do you use?
« on: November 05, 2007, 02:46 PM »
MP3Tag here, the best I've found for keyboard-only operation. I've turned all confirmations off, and editing the tags is now like typing in a document - just type and it's done.

1004
Also, 20K is really nothing.

OP probably meant 20 MB :) But in a way it *is* nothing. I used Outpost for a very long time, but it was taking up 47 megs RAM, freshly installed. I finally said goodbye to it after it randomly stopped letting ftp traffic through (one day it worked, another day it did not), and several cycles of reinstalling and carefully reconfiguring the rules weren't helping.

With Comodo I've had a different problem recently. It was preventing a LAN connection between my desktop (where Comodo was running) and laptop. There was nothing I could find to tweak that would let the connection go through, and only disabling Comodo helped. So out it went.

As recently as a year ago, and certainly 2 years ago, I never had firewall-related issues, even though I was using ICS. But recent versions of all the firewalls I've tried seem to have become too complex for their own good, and there is always *something* that doesn't work and cannot be configured quite so. I had some hopes for Avira Security Suite (www.avira.com/en/produkte/avira_premium_security_suite.html), but it was giving me three blue screens a day.


1005
Living Room / Re: The worst thing about Macs
« on: October 11, 2007, 08:54 AM »
Heh, here's something that cracked me up recently. A real-life heading from OS X troubleshooting article:


"Right-clicking"


And I kid you not.


1006
I hate it in all applications.  Nuff said.

Same here, it's one of the first things I disable. Smooth scrolling makes me feel I have less control over navigation; it never scrolls the distance I want or at the speed I want. All animation effects go out right along with it.

It is not the first thing I disable in a new install though - that would probably be hiding file extensions in Explorer - but also, that's a whole new thread!

1007
General Software Discussion / Re: Help with VisitURL
« on: July 09, 2007, 08:57 PM »
thanks again, sorry for the trouble.. now, i'm using AHK to close the error message as it appears so take your time.. :)

I really didn't want to look at that code **Shudder**

It's fixed, though! I've fixed the bug, at least I think so, and you can download the update here:
http://www.tranglos....e/files/visit175.zip

It's not an installer - just unzip and overwrite your existing version with visit.exe from this archive (but keep a backup just in case :-))

marek

1008
General Software Discussion / Re: Help with VisitURL
« on: July 06, 2007, 06:35 AM »
thanks for replying, tranglos.. here's the details: i'm using WinXP (SP2) with Firefox as default browser. The url is launched correctly even though the error message appears and i have also tried several combinations - changing the default browser and toggling the "Always default" button. But in short, it's cosmetic no functionality is affected. :)

Thanks for that. So it does seem that I am interpreting a normal return code as an error. Let me see if I can fix that. (I dread looking at that old code!)

1009
General Software Discussion / Re: Help with VisitURL
« on: July 05, 2007, 05:39 PM »
however, i noticed that a error message pops-up if i disable that setting. since the program is discontinued, i was hoping that someone here may be able to provide a work-around for this. :)

Okay, I don't recall much about what's going on in VisitURL there, and don't know if I'll be able to recompile it anymore. I do know that the ShellExecute call (used to start programs as well as launch URLs) sometimes returns weird return values, and it is entirely possible that VisitURL interprets an okay value as error.

What OS are you using? (And I hope it's XP or 2000, because these are the only ones I can test with ;) FWIW, I am not seeing this behavior on XP, and it shouldn't be happening under Win95 either, since I was using 95 to develop the app.

Secondly, when the error message shows, does the browser still launch with the correct URL?

Thirdly: when the "Always default" checkbox is checked, VisitURL ignores the browser specified in the edit box (it launches the url directly, and the system takes care of picking the correct browser app.). Could you please try unchecking that box and see if the error goes away?

marek

1010
Google Reader is an excellent alternative - I have my feeds mirrored there just in case I need to check them when I'm on another PC. However, for someone who has a slow connection (256 kbps) I find an offline app like FeedDemon way more responsive that Google Reader.

I hadn't considered that, but it seems Google has :) If you check out Google Reader now, it has a new "Offline" button. Apparently (I haven't tried it yet) it downloads the last 2,000 entries for offline reading.

1011
How about Google Reader?
http://www.google.com/reader/view/

I bought FeedDemon a long time ago, before the author got bought out (again! Remind me never to buy anything by Nick Bradbury, even though he's an awesome coder). I liked it, but it was always sluggish, and the newer releases even more so. I also missed feaures, like easy copying URL to clipboard, or saving images. Obviously these features are directly accessible from any browser, and indeed the browser is the "native" environment for RSS. Once I tried Google Reader, I never looked back.

Google Reader might be a little cumbersome if you had hundreds of feeds, but I'm subscribed to about 30, and for that the interface is very convenient. One nice touch: you can play podcasts directly in the reader, or you can download the source file - Google always supplies a direct link to the file.

1012
Most clipboard managers allow you to specify exclusions to programs such like your password manager?

I don't know if they do, and I don't know how it could be implemented. When an application is notified about change in clipboard data, there is no way to know "who" put the new data on clipboard. The clipboard manager cannot tell if you copied from Word or from a password manager. At least I don't know any Windows APIs that provide that information.

(This is also a generic problem with Windows APIs: the messages applications send to each other do not sxpecify the sender. If an app gets a "COPY" message, for example, it cannot know if the user clicked Edit->Copy or a trojan horse program is trying to copy some sensitive data.)

1013
This is probably tangential to your question, but I wanted to raise an issue that's rarely considered when discussing clipboard managers (and the reason I never use one ;)) Running a clipboard manager is a huge security problem if you also use a password manager or have a habit of copying/pasting passwords. The reason why is obvious; finding a solution is less so.

As far as I know, ClipMate is the only clipboard manager that behaves responsibly, but it requires cooperation from the password manager. ClipMate's author came up with a truly genius solution for password managers to tell any other program that it must not capture a particular clip. The way to do this is to register a special clipboard format, for which ClipMate checks. If clipboard contains data in this format, it will not capture the clip. It's awfully simple and can be easily implemented in any Windows program:

http://www.thornsoft...developer_ignore.htm

I use this technique in my Oubliette password manager, but it does depend on the clipboard manager checking for this condition and honoring it. Since most programs probably don't do that, I implemented a different (optional) technique as well. You guessed it: I intentionally break the clipboard chain. Just before Oubliette copies a password to clipboard, it registers itself in the chain, and then does not forward the clipboard notification to the next app in chain. Immediately after that the chain is restored.

This prevents *any* clipboard extender from capturing the clip, but is admittedly a heavy-handed approach, optional for those who worry about this sort of thing. It seems to be an interesting case when a momentary breaking of the clipboard chain is intended and quite beneficial.

1014
Maybe just a question - if the clipboard chain gets broken, does it break all links or just ones "after it" (if this is how it works).

As I understand the relevant MS documentation, the application gets added to the front of the list, so it would break all previous links in the chain. Applications that register themselves for clipboard monitoring later should not be affected.

Does a new application launching that uses the clipboard chain automatically go to the end of the list?

To the beginning of the list, actually, and it is responsible for doing two things:
1. It must forward clipboard messages to the next application in chain
2. It muat cleanly remove itself and restore the chain when it stops monitoring the clipboard.

Failing to to either will break the chain.

Just wondering if when an application is started can affect how often it would be affected by other applications.  This might be useful to add a simple application that checks for something getting added to the clipboard every time CTRL+C is pressed.  At least I think this should be easy in Autohotkey, just add a pass through script for CTRL+C and monitor for a clipboard change.  If it receives a CTRL+C, but no change report, there may have been an issue.

Just a reminder that Ctrl+C  is only one of many ways of copying stuff to clipboard.

1015
General Software Discussion / Re: How do you backup your files?
« on: April 25, 2007, 09:25 PM »
What if... You house burns ?  :(

I'm using Backup4All to copy the really critical stuff (encrypted) via FTP to my account on Dreamhost, which runs my website. I wish I could back up more that way, but at 30 kb/s upload rate it's pretty slow going.

1016
these apps have little effect on the functioning of my system and just serve to make me obsess about the difference between 512MB free RAM and 100MB free RAM.

Someone - may have been Joel Spolsky in his blog - made a valid point that free RAM is wasted RAM. As long as there is unallocated physical memory in my system, I *want* my apps to use it if it makes them more responsive. Trimming an app's working set means it'll take that much longer to come back.

I do use this feature in Firefox though (config.trim_on_minimize), because over time it allocates ungodly amounts of memory and is reluctant to release any when tabs/windows are closed. But bringing Firefox back later takes 10-20 seconds, on a fairly fast system.


1017
Great product, great discount (thanks!)... and then they have to go and spoil it by playing funny at the store. On the page you link to, prices are listed in US dollars: PD8 Pro is $39,99 before the discount. But click "Download now", and on the order page the price is still 39,99... Euro :) At the current exchange rathe this shaves off the whole discount. I proceeded as far as the cc entry page and there is no option to select currency, so Euro it stays.

Since the order page already knows to add VAT to the price, I suppose they may be using geolocation to figure out the country from IP address (I'm in Poland, so they have to charge me the VAT). I wonder if the price remains in dollars when you connect from the US?

There should be a special place in hell... on second thought, maybe just a thread on DC dedicated to such and related practices, because they're becoming common. Usually it's just a switch from USD to Euro pricing, which is a 25% increase. Most recently I've seen that happen with EditPad Pro: used to be $35,95, now €39,95.

If a developer wants to raise the price with a new release, fair enough, I have no problem with that. It's just that the way they do it looks like they hope no-one will notice, even if it isn't their intention.

1018
General Software Discussion / TextPad updated to 5.0
« on: March 06, 2007, 03:54 AM »
After two years or so, my favorite editor has been updated, just when I was about to give up hope: www.textpad.com

The list of new features isn't all that impressive, but the author says it is the first in a series of new releases to come. The update is free to registered users of TextPad 4.x.

Enhancements:

    * Dockable File Explorer.
    * Dockable Search Results and Tool Output.
    * Tabbed document selector and clip library.
    * Resizable Find/Replace dialogs.
    * Drag and drop reordering of document tabs.
    * Configurable environment variables.
    * Vista 64 compatibility.
    * Partial URLs of the form www.domain.com are now syntax highlighted.

While TextPad didn't do too well in DC's Best Text Editor review, it's still my favorite editor. It has served me fantastically well over the years, and it's unmatched in manipulating huge files, 50 MB upwards.

Within the last year I've evaluated plenty of other editors, including some over the $100 mark; I've purchased EmEditor (I needed an editor that handles *all* Unicode files correctly; otherwise it still has a long way to go) and EditPad Pro (for its general neatness, but the more I use it, the more it disappoints me). TextPad remains the fastest, leanest, most streamlined in my daily use. It has only one annoycance that I can think of - the tab navigation scheme. Otherwise, of all the editors I've seen, TextPad is the one that never gets in my way and is by far the most productive.

marek

1019
Thanks for another great writeup! I just want to add my 0.02, um, Euro :) I've been wondering if there is any underlying regularity to the division between the excelent and not-so-excellent implementations of live search.

From your overview it seems that live search implementations tend to be better in programs that are not designed to deal with huge amounts of data. It makes sense. You can add instant search to *any* application, but not all applications can be realistically expected to perform it in a truly instant manner. It's one thing to scan an addressbook or a list of bookmarks - a typical user will not have more than a few dozen addresses or a few hundred bookmarks. And it's an entirely different thing to search through a multi-megabyte database, as will be the case with TheBat or MyBase.

I've never used MyBase, but I now have 240 MB of data in TheBat mailboxes. I don't think any search algorithm, no matter how good, will run through that much text as fast as you can type. So I think it's not the case of some programmers being lazier than others, or falling behind the curve. It's often the nature of the database that dictates what's feasible. In TB, if you didn't have to press Enter to initiate searching, you'd be experiencing a brief "freeze" after typing each character - and that would produce a much worse usability experience, the program would feel clunky.

You can experience that clunky feeling in some blogs that use live search (there are live sarch add-ons for TextPattern and, I think, WordPress). That doesn't work too well. Each keypress requires a trip to the server, running a query on the DB and returning the results, so both the network latency and DB performance come into play. If the blog has only a couple of entries, the result may be acceptable, but if you're searching through years of archives, you press a key, then wait until the results refresh, then press another key - and you actually lose time if you make a typo and have to start over.

Evernote seems to be an exception to this rule, perhaps because, as you observe, it must have been built pretty much around the live search feature. Perhaps also it uses a particularly efficient indexing system. But it would be interesting to know the size of the data each of the applications you tested had to deal with.

Data size is not the only factor, of course. There's also the format in which data is stored. Let me use KeyNote as an example. KeyNote stores notes as RTF, there really is no other way. You cannot search through RTF directly, because of all the embedded formatting codes and character encodings. The only thing I could do at the time was to sequentially load each note into an (invisible) richedit control and use the control's built-in search function. This is, of course, slow. On today's fast machines you won't notice any bothersome delay, but still the search isn't instant. The only way around it would be to store each note twice: the original RTF, and a "cleaned-up" plain text version. That way I could use the plain text version for searching. This is indeed what I'm aiming to do at the moment, but it requires a different storage mechanism, and of course it  bloats the file size.

Another factor is whether the application uses Unicode. There are search routines written in assembly that perform amazingly fast on ANSI strings, but I've yet to see a library that handles Unicode equally fast, at least in Delphi land. (TheBat supports Unicode). Just the fact that you may have to deal with variable number of bytes per character slows you down enormously, and of course with encodings like UTF-16 you have to read through twice as much raw data.

Finally, the feasibility of live search (and other neat things) will depend on the storage model. We can pretty safely assume that a lightweight program like PowerMarks loads all the data into RAM and keeps it there. KeyNote does the same, as I'm sure do most addressbooks. (I'd like to know about Evernote). It's a reasonable behavior for a bookmark manager, but, as it happens, turns out not to have been reasonable for KeyNote. I found that out when I questions started to pour in from people who created 30- or 40-MB files in KeyNote and were wondering why loading those files took so long. But if your storage model is disk-bound, and each piece of data is read from disk only when needed, this too will have a huge impact on how you can search, and how fast.

Sorry for the longwindedness... I'm still avoiding posting to the famous Notetakers thread, because I've been thinking about this for the last five years or so and I could write volumes, but it would mostly be about what would be great to have versus what I think is realistically possible :)

1020
General Software Discussion / Re: recommend backup soft?
« on: February 26, 2007, 03:54 PM »
I evaluated Second Copy and liked it a lot, but eventually bought Backup4All: http://www.backup4all.com/ The single deciding issue was that, while both can do FTP backup, SecondCopy cannot do FTP backup to a zip file - instead, it transfers each individual file uncompressed. This is horribly wrong for two reasons: ftp storage space is relatively costly (compared to HDD), and transferring uncompressed files takes much longer.

I'm almost happy with Backup4All, although it too has a few wrinkles. It's slower than SecondCopy, especially when compressing files, and perceptibly affects overall system performance when it is zipping files up - not in a major way, but it does, even when the thread is set to lowest priority.

Also, it will not automatically run missed backups, e.g. when the computer was off at the scheduled time. I asked the author about this and he wasn't too eager to do anything about it - he advised me to use the sleep mode instead of switching the computer off, which is a little like the doctor from the old joke - if it hurts when you do that, don't do that.

On the plus side, Backup4all is very flexible in all aspects and very nicely designed (the ugly-ish and less convenient UI was one reason I ditched syncBackSE after trying it out). I rely on ftp backup a lot and it seems to be working fine.

marek

1021
i'm now using the free version of agnitum outpost v1.
i think it does enough for what i wanted, i.e. do i want to let this program access the internet - yes/no, click.

Good deal! :) I'm sure it doesn't take nearly as much RAM as my 3.5, either...


1022
I tried reinstalling 3.5 but it keeps insisting I should upgrade to v. 4 and I am not sure it is updating any more.

You can turn off the upgrade prompt, I think. It's not like an antivirus that needs to update itself every week or so. Outpost does download new spyware definitions, and I'm not sure if it keeps updating those when your subscription expires, but the spyware detection engine is only a sideshow.


1023
i think i had outpost 3.5, it might have been a bit of an earlier version i can't remember now.

I can't really remember either if i stopped using it because my subscription ran out (does it run out, i can't remember) or there was something it did that didn't agree with my machine.

The subscription is only for upgrades - when it runs out after a year, you can't install newer versions published after that date. The program itsel'f doesn't expire. So instead of making you pay for each major version upgrade, they charge for upgrades once a year.

1024
will i go back to Zone Alarm, will i go back to Outpost?

Heh, I didn't notice you've already tried Outpost, so pls disregard the above. What was the reason you gave up on it?

One way of ridding oneself of a firewall completely would be to install a hardware router, but that's yet another device that consumes power and radiates heat and I already have anough of these at home...

1025
i think i'll just not bother with a firewall
Why not just use the Windows firewall?  No outbound blocking but surely better than nothing, no?

But the OP specifically wants outbound connection blocking :)

Nudone: Long ago I started with Zone Alarm, which was great until they moved to a new major version and ZA became bloated, slow and hard to configure. Then I used the free version of Kerio until I needed connection sharing, which the free version didn't support. I bought the pro version, but didn't like it at all. It caused bluescreen "STOP" errors and missed some applications which clearly were establishing connections without Kerio noticing them. I switched to Sygate but that didn't last long, about half of the net-enabled apps I use were happily connecting without Sygate ever knowing about them, and the interface was so obscure I became borderline paranoid, because I could not see clearly what was allowed and what wasn't.

If I were to try another firewall today, I'd try F-Secure Internet Security, simply because the same company makes F-Prot, a very good antivirus product. But instead, I happened upon what's nearly a perfect firewall for my needs: Agnitum Outpost. I've used it since 2004, had very few problems, nothing major.

For one thing, it's very nicely designed - the UI is very clear and logically laid out, you can easily access the various groups of settings. Great logging feature with filters, so I can always see exactly what is being allowed or blocked and why, as well as check which processes are holding ports open at any given time. Another good idea in Outpost is the plug-in architecture: if you don't want active content filtering for example (flash, activex, etc) you simply disable the plugin. It autoconfigures for most popular software, and offers detailed custom rules. It doesn't win most leaktests, but does rate high, and certainly hasn't failed me in three years.

Now for some problems. Like I said, I haven't experienced any showstoppers with Outpost, onlya few minor annoyances. After I run it for a long time and the configuration becomes large, with many rules, on two occasions I was unable to add a new "allow" rule for a newly installed app. The rule creates OK and Outpost claims to be using it, but the app can't reach out for some reason. It's happened to me twice, and the way around it was to drop the existing configuration and have Outpost create a new one from scratch. This has a positive side-effect in cleaning up all the stale rules for apps I once installed and since removed, but well, it's a bit annoying. However, Outpost autodetection is so good that the last time I barely needed to modify it.

There is an attack detection feature which is a little too eager: in the default configuration it won't let me post on Slashdot, for instance (maybe it's a good thing :) You can disable it altogether or restrict the detection though.

Version 2.5 had some issues with internet connection sharing, which required manual tweaks in an ini file, but it seems to have been corrected since then.

One caveat: I'm using version 3.5. The latest is 4.0, and I've seen a few disappointing comments on the support forum, so I'm waiting it out till they fix what they may have broken in this release. I would still recommend that you try Outpost, and in case of any problems you can try their support forum, it's quite lively.

marek

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