Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Minimum Online Configuration

I recently looked at my sister in law's computer. They said it was running slow. My brother had a similar problem several months ago. Following is my minimum configuration for a windows computer connected to the Internet.

Automatic updates - Windows update is usually configured properly to download and install updates automatically. I have found with two XP installations that I had to manually get SP2 installed first. You can check yours in Start/Control Panel/Automatic Updates.

Anti virus - In both cases I had to get an anti virus running first before I could get SP2 to install. Maybe the viruses that were found where desperately fighting to keep the exterminator from getting in. My cousin mentioned AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition. It seems to work fine. You will have to be careful when you install it. It tries to get you to install a free trial of the non-free version. This is a common practice for providers of free software. Just read the notices as you download and install. 
UPDATE Dec 2010: Instead of AVG you should install MS Security Essentials.  It is free and from Microsoft.  I have run it on one of my computers for several months now.

Ad-Blocking - Use some simple ad-blocking extensions for your favorite browser.  Your sanity and your computer's health will thank you. (Added Jan 2013)
Chrome - Adblock Plus, Ghostery (I use it to block taboola)
FireFox - Adblock Plus, Ghostery
IE - Simple Adblock

Firewall - I don't use a firewall.  I have a router between my cable modem and my network.  It blocks much of the bad people trying to access your network.  You may want to install one if you have people that aren't careful on your network.  It will stop malware that you have mistakenly installed to try and phone home.

Internet filter - (Updated Jun 2015)
OpenDNS Family Shield is a free option and it will protect your whole network, if you set it up on your router.  It pays for itself with ads.  Whenever you hit a site that is blocked a OpenDNS page is shown with ads.  You can choose a paid for option and eliminate the ads and increase your log retention to I think 2 years.  Here is how you set it up.

In addition to filtering on your router, I use parental controls for mobile devices. iPod Touch has pretty good built in controls. We remove Safari, YouTube, Installing Apps and set the allowed content. For android devices, we use AppLock and Qustodio.

Also, we use practices like putting the family desktop in an open area and rules for laptops to be used in an open area. We put passwords on all desktop and laptop computers that only mom and dad know. If they want to use one, we log it on for them for a specific purpose and then they are off. And we use the buddy system for additional precaution.

The technology we use is mainly to prevent someone accidentally coming across unsavory content. Much more powerful is open and often dialog with your children. Talk to them about everything. Listen to what they say. They will come to trust you when something disturbs them. Teach them to stop, crash and tell. If something disturbs them on the Internet, stop. Crash the device or computer. And tell their mom or dad.

As a parent, it is our job to help our children navigate the dangers of the Internet. Gain their trust by being compassionate and empathetic. Teach them the dangers of porn. Teach them to not ask Google about sexual things but rather their parents. Teach them that sexual intimacy is sacred and beautiful and only one aspect of the wonder of marriage. Express love in ways they feel it.

Defragment - Windows 7 and newer automatically defragments automatically.

Reduce start up apps - Programs sometimes are intrusive. They want you to use them. They get themselves to start up when you start your computer. They can slow your system down. Here I detail how you can tell your computer what is important to you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Five Browser Shortcuts Everyone Should Know

The Five Browser Shortcuts Everyone Should Know tells of often used keyboard shortcuts in IE7.

1. Set up a keyboard shortcut to launch your browser
2. Alt+D to navigate to the browser address bar
3. Ctrl+E to navigate to the browser search box
4. Alt+Enter to open searches or websites in a new tab
5. The middle mouse button opens links in a new tab, and also closes tabs

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ClearType Tuner PowerToy

I just got a new wide screen LCD monitor at work. I found the MS tool, ClearType Tuner PowerToy, made the text much more clear.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where Are the Software Engineers of Tomorrow?

A friend sent me this from the Journal of Defense Software Engineering, Computer Science Education: Where Are the Software Engineers of Tomorrow?

If programmers only learn higher levels of software development, who will build the next great operating system? Who will build the compilers for the higher level languages?

Joel Splosky refers to this article and suggests creating Bachelor of Fine Arts in Software Development.

Imagine instead an undergraduate curriculum that consists of 1/3 liberal arts, and 2/3 software development work. The teachers are experienced software developers from industry. The studio operates like a software company. You might be able to major in Game Development and work on a significant game title, for example, and that's how you spend most of your time, just like a film student spends a lot of time actually making films and the dance students spend most of their time dancing.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gmail Edit Link Shortcut Key

I love Gmail. I never have to look at another flashy ad from one of the other webmail providers again. I feel assaulted when my wife and I are browsing together and she is reading her email. I hope Google never changes from their non intrusive, text based ads.

One peeve I have with Gmail is there is no keyboard shortcut to Edit Link. I use Edit Link often when I compose an email. I have gotten used to ctrl+k in MS-Word. IE will open a hyperlink dialog when I use ctrl+k. Firefox uses ctrl+k to set focus on the search bar. I wouldn't mind learning to remember another keyboard shortcut if they would only provide it.

One more thing. It would be great for it to be the same shortcut key that blogger.com and any other editing tool google has (will have).

**** Update 2009-10-14 ****
I was hoping that the new Custom Keyboard Shortcuts would allow me to assign a Ctrl+K some other kind of keyboard shortcut to allow me to bring up the "Edit Link" dialog box when I am composing a message alas no.