Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anti-virus Comparison

A Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe

antivirus comparison
What is the best free antivirus? This is among the most common questions we receive at MakeUseOf. People want to be protected, but they don't want to have to pay a yearly fee or use bloated security suites with unwanted features. I myself am a free antivirus user for these very reasons.
Discovering the best anti-virus isn't easy, however. There are a lot of points to consider including the user interface, resource and overall effectiveness against the baddies. Let's take an in-depth look at five popular choices (Avast!, AVG, Ad-Aware, Avira and Microsoft Security Essentials) to see which is best.


Our performance testing in this article consisted of a selected scan of a single 500GB mechanical hard drive that was approximately half-full. We used the full scan option. Our gauge of memory usage is based off the memory the software uses while running in the background and is the rounded average of what I witnessed over three minutes of use.
Protection information comes from AV-Comparatives and AV-Test, two leading sources for information about antivirus effectiveness. The specific studies referenced are AV-Comparative's March 2012 Detection Test andAV-Test's June 2012 round-up.
All testing was done under Windows 7 64-bit.

Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+

antivirus comparison

Lavasoft's rather wide main menu does a good job of providing information without overwhelming the user. Most of the features are turned on or off using sliders and the big, bright "Scan Now!" button makes it immediately clear where a user needs to click to perform a scan.
I was somewhat confused by the custom scan options, however, because individuals drives can't be selected before a specific box in the options is checked.
Lavasoft tries to lure users in by displaying advanced features that can't be used until the full version is activated. It's a bit disappointing to find a feature is not available, but this approach is less bothersome than the sidebar ads used by AVG.
Performance didn't prove to be a strong point. A full scan took a tad over twenty minutes, the second-longest result. The background application consumed about 32 megabytes of RAM while idle. That's not enough to drag down most systems but it is by far the worst result among the software evaluated here.
AV-Comparatives still does not include Lavasoft products in its file detection tests. AV-Test does test it, however, and found that it was able to handle 99% of recently discovered threats during the most recent round-up. The only flaw is 0-day attacks. Lavasoft detected just 80% of those threats, which ties Microsoft Security Essentials for last place.
By the way, you can grab Lavasoft Ad-Aware Pro for free in our Rewards section. It's just 500 points!


antivirus software comparison

Avast! features an interface that appears smooth and modern relative to most competitors. Its large window includes a lot of free white space and provides all the information you need to know about your computer's current protection.
I really like the software's real-time shield menu. It lumps all of the different threat vectors which Avast! protects against into one menu and shows you how much of each have been scanned. It even updates in real-time as new potential threats are checked.
Advertising is included but is mostly restricted to the installation process and the main menu. The computer scan and real-time shield menus, which users will deal with most frequently, are devoid of ads.
A full scan of our test drive required about 15 minutes, the second-best result. The background process required 3.5 megabytes of RAM at idle, which is technically the middle result.
Avast! missed about 2% of all samples thrown at it in the last AV-Comparatives malware detection test, an average result. The last AV-Test comparison agreed with those findings.


antivirus software comparison

The interface of AVG is simple. It provides a list of icons, each representing a form of protection, and places the scan functions to the sidebar.  The "Scan Now" link is literal. Click on it, and AVG will starts to work on your entire computer without any additional prompts.
While the basic anti-virus features are easy to use the additional components are a bit bewildering. AVG includes everything from e-mail protection to rootkit protection. A lot of these components are handicapped, however, and direct you to buy one of AVG's paid solutions. Other icons direct users to AVG products on other platforms, like Android.
AVG posted the least impressive scan time result. It required almost 23 minutes to chew through our 500GB test drive - about 75% longer than the quickest competitor. The background process, however, was the second smallest. It consumed just 2.4 megabytes of RAM at idle.
AV-Comparative's last file detection test found that AVG missed about 3.5% of all threats thrown at it, one of the least impressive scores in the test group. AV-Test, however, found that the software detected 99% or recent threats in its last round-up.


antivirus software comparison

Avira has a confusing interface. For example, performing a specific scan requires that the user go to the System Scanner menu, then click on an option, then click a very small magnifying glass icon. Alternatively you can click the gear button on the main menu, but this opens up another menu that declares you must be in "expert mode" to change settings. Uh, what is expert mode? The big fat "Scan!" button used by competitors is more intuitive.
In-app advertising was light, but I was hit by a pop-up advertisement immediately after installing the software. Pop-up ads on my desktop are extremely annoying and not something I want to see, ever. There are also many features which are visible, but disabled until you buy the full version.
Avira blew away the competition in our performance tests. It required just over 13 minutes to perform a full hard drive scan and its background process consumed a measly 1.8 megabytes of RAM at idle. This software is clearly the best for users who prefer protection that is light on system resources.
Avira did extremely well in the last AV-Comparatives file detection test. It missed less than .5% of all samples and scored second-best overall, beating all other free solutions tested. Avira also detected 99% of recently discovered threats in the last AV-Test roundup.

Microsoft Security Essentials

antivirus comparison

Microsoft Security Essentials is different from the competitors because it's not a marketing tool. All the other vendors offer their free anti-virus in an attempt to earn name recognition and impress users, but Microsoft has no paid anti-virus to sell. This makes for a clean interface that's not cluttered by advertisements.
Some of the cleanliness is due to a lack of features, however. MSE can scan for, detect, quarantine and attempt to remove a virus, but that's all it does. There's no mobile version, no e-mail protection, no bundled anti-phishing. It is, as the name implies, only the "essentials."
MSE posted middling results in our performance tests. It required almost twenty minutes to fully scan our test drive and its background process consumed about 6.8 megabytes of RAM at idle.
Early testing of MSE suggested it was surprisingly competent, but more recent tests have been less kind. MSE came in last during the most recent AV-Comparatives file detection test. It missed almost 7% of all samples. AV-Test found that it missed 5% of recently detected samples in its last round-up.

So Which Is Best?

Avira is the technical standout. It has posted excellent scores in recent protection tests and it also ran away from the competition in our performance metrics. The downside is a confusing user interface. I had to explore the software for a few minutes before I understood how to operate it. If Avira could make the software just at tad more intuitive it would have the perfect product.
Avast! may be a better option for users who want to fuss with protection as little as possible. It is nearly as good as Avira in our performance benchmarks and it offers a slick, simple interface. Advertising is kept to a minimum, as well.
Lavasoft and AVG are suitable choices, but both have a catch that may be significant for some users. Lavasoft uses far more resources than the competitors while running in the background and AVG has an unattractive interface loaded with advertisements for the full version and other AVG products. Both offer competent protection, however.
Last, and least, is Microsoft Security Essentials. It was not the slowest in our tests, nor did it eat the most RAM, but protection studies have shown it to be the least effective at stopping threats by a large margin. Missing 5% of recent threats in the AV-Test roundup doesn't sound like much, but all other competitors missed 2% or less. Going with MSE makes you substantially more vulnerable.

Use Multiple Profiles Simultaneously in Chrome to Separate Out Work from Personal

Chrome multiple profiles users
Last year Google started to play around with adding profiles to the Chrome browser, and I feel like its usefulness is often overlooked. Most people attribute having multiple user profiles with being able to share a computer between multiple family members. You may not think about how useful it could be to have multiple profiles for yourself.
Personally I rely on Google Chrome’s multiple profiles each and every day. I generally keep multiple user profiles to help separate my work and personal stuff on some of my machines. Each Google Chrome profile can run simultaneously, and each one will have its own icon on the Windows Taskbar. The Taskbar icon will place the profile’s avatar in the bottom-right corner of the Chrome icon so that you can distinguish between them.
The other thing I like about creating multiple profiles is that each one can get tied to its own Google account for syncing. I have one Google account for personal, and another for work. All my bookmarks and extensions are synced across machines, which helps provide some independence from the machine you need to use. It’s really nice having full access to both my personal and work-related bookmarks available on the same machine while still keeping them separated.
So how do you set up new users/profiles in Chrome? Just click on the wrench icon and pull up the Settings. When you scroll down a little bit you should see a Users section toward the bottom. Click the Add new user button and a new Chrome window should immediately pop up. You are now running two Chrome profiles simultaneously. You can always use a single window and switch between profiles by clicking on the profile’s icon located in the upper-left corner of the Chrome window. When you click on the icon it will list out all of the available accounts on the machine.
That’s all there is to it. Now with this little trick you can easily separate out your personal and work stuff while still retaining quick access to data from both on the same machine.

Token authentication for Gmail using a eZ430 Chronos watch

Two-factor authentication allows you to use your chosen password, as well as a one-time password to help keep your services secure. The one-time passwords traditionally come from a dedicated piece of hardware, but there are also solutions for smart phones. [Patrick Schaumont] shows how a TI eZ430 Chronos Watch can be used to generate authentication tokens. After walking through the process he uses it to beef up his gmail login.
This method of token authentication is often called Time-based One Time Passwords (TOTP). It’s part of the Open Authentication (OATH) initiative, which seeks to sort out the password-hell that is modern computing. A portable device generates a password by applying an algorithm and a private encryption key to an accuarte time-stamp. On the server side of things a public key is used to verify the one-time password entered based on the server’s own time-stamp. In this case the portable device is the Chronos watch and the server is Google’s own TOTP service.
You can do this with other simple microcontrollers, we’ve even seen an Arduino implementation. But the wrist-watch form factor seen here is by far the most convenient — as long as you always remember to wear the watch.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

14 Special Google Searches That Show Instant Answers

Google can do more than display lists of websites – Google will give you quick answers to many special searches. While Google isn’t quite as advanced as Wolfram Alpha, it has quite a few tricks up its sleeve.
We’ve also covered searching Google like a pro by learning the Google search operators – if you want to master Google, be sure to learn those.


You can use Google as a calculator – just type in a quick calculation and Google will provide an answer. Google now offers a clickable calculator tool when you search for a calculation, so you can use Google like you’d use a calculator application on your desktop or smartphone.

Unit Conversions

Google can also convert between a variety of units. Just type a search in the form X unit to unit. For example, 40 degrees f to c converts 40 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius.
As with the calculator, the unit conversion tool is clickable.
You can also combine unit conversations and math. For example, the search two miles plus 500 yards in kilometers will return a valid answer.

Currency Conversions

Google can also do currency conversions for you. You can do a search such as usd to cadto see the exchange rate between two currencies, or do a search such as 500 usd to cadto see how much a certain amount of currency is worth in another currency.

Your IP Address

You can determine your current public IP address by typing what is my ip into Google – or just search for my ip.


To see the weather in a specific location, search for weather location – for example, search for weather new york to see a weather forecast for New York. If you enterweather without a location, Google will show you the weather for your current area.

Sunrise and Sunset

You can also view the sunrise or sunset times for a location by typing sunrise location orsunset location. Like with the weather search, searching for sunrise or sunset without a location will show you the sunrise or sunset times for your current location.


View the current time for a location by typing time location – for example, searching fortime paris will show you the current time in Paris, France.  Like with the weather searches, searching for time without a location will show you the current time where you are.

Package Tracking

If you want to track a package, you can enter a UPS, USPS, or Fedex tracking number directly in the Google search box. Google will link you to the appropriate package-tracking page.

Dictionary Definitions

To view the dictionary definition for a word, search for define word – Google will show you the definition of the word, along with a button you can click to hear the word pronounced aloud.

Flight Tracking

View the status of a flight by typing an airline name followed by a flight number.

Flight Schedules

Search for available flights by searching for flights from city to city. Google will show you a list of available flights along with their prices, durations, and airlines – you can enter your dates and locate flights right from the search page.

Movie Schedules

Want to see a movie in a theater? Search for movies followed by your postal code to view a list of movies playing near you.


You can view many types of data for different cities and countries, such as the population and unemployment rate, by searching for them. For example, searching for population location will show you the population of that location, whether it’s a city, state, or country.

Stock Information

View about a stock, including its price and a graph of its price history, by searching for any stock symbol on Google.

LearnBoost: Free Online Class Reports & Management For Teachers, Students & Parents [Web]

 is a completely free online class management system that consists of a group of apps to manage a single classroom or a whole school. The apps can help manage grade books, lesson plans, class roster, seating plan, schedules and attendance.  LearnBoost is primarily designed for teachers, but the grades and attendance part of the system can also be used by students and parents, which is a great way for students to evaluate themselves, and parents to keep an eye on their children’s performance on a daily basis. LearnBoost’s interface is easy to use and provides complete control over every option there is. The web application has much to offer, so we will briefly go through its salient features.
Signup is completely free and can be done using a Facebook or Google account as well. During the registration process, the web app asks you to specify the kind of account you require (Teacher, Student or Parent). Teachers start by logging in and creating a class, providing the information like class name, subject, course number, school session, start and end date, grade level, maximum number of students and a brief description. This information is editable by the teacher at any time. The bar at the top allows teachers to navigate to their accounts’ settings, view their portfolio of lessons, create a new lesson and view/add events to the calendar.
Under each class created, there are four main tabs, Administration, Gradebook, Attendance and Reporting. It is from within the Administration tab that teachers can view and edit basic class info, the class roster, seating plan, schedule and policy, and can choose what information will be accessible by students and their parents.
LearnBoost Seating
The Gradebook tab lets the teacher easily input students’ grades for assignments and quizzes separately, and automatically calculates the final grade for each student. The grade scale used for calculations can be edited according to the school’s policy.
LearnBoost Gradebook
The Attendance section, as its name suggests, can be used by teachers to log student attendance. The special thing about LearnBoost’s attendance menu is that, in addition to the conventional list view, it shows students’ names in a chart laid out according to the seating plan, making it easier for the teacher to mark students absent or tardy.
LearnBoost Attendance menu  LearnBoost Attendance Archives
The Reporting tab displays a detailed graphical representation of all the stats for grades, assignments and attendance, making it easier for the teachers to assess the disciplinary and academic progress of the entire class or individual students (Student view).
LearnBoost Reporting menu
Now, let’s see take a look at what LearnBoost offers parents and students. Students, after logging in, can select a class to view its grade and attendance information, and print it out if required. Basic information regarding the teacher and class policy is displayed in the right column.
The parents account has options almost identical to those found in the student account. It shows their children’s grades and attendance for every class they take.
LearnBoost Parents
LearnBoost is a very good way to manage things around a school. All the features it provides to teachers, students and parents are very practical and easy to employ, and its being completely free is a huge bonus. If I ever think about starting a teacher’s career, I’ll be sure to remember using LearnBoost to make my life easier.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How To Easily Send Emails From The Windows Task Scheduler


The Windows Task Scheduler can automatically send email at a specific time or in response to a specific event, but its integrated email feature won’t work very well for most users.
Instead of using the Task Scheduler’s email feature to send emails, you can use the SendEmail utility. It allows you to construct a single-line command that authenticates with an SMTP server and sends an email.

The Problem With The Task Scheduler’s Email Function

When we covered setting up your computer to send you email notifications when anyone logs in, we found that the built-in email feature had some issues.
While you can enter any SMTP server you like, the Task Scheduler doesn’t support authentication, so you can’t provide a username and password for your SMTP server. The type of SMTP server most users have access to (for example, Gmail’s SMTP server, or an SMTP server provided by your Internet service provider) requires authentication, so it can’t easily be used from the Task Scheduler.
If you’re running an SMTP server on your local computer, the Task Scheduler’s email function may be useful to you. However, the average user will need another tool – that’s where SendEmail comes in.

Using SendEmail

First, download SendEmail, a free (and open source) tool for sending emails from the command line. Extract the downloaded archive into a folder on your computer.
Next, launch the Windows Task Scheduler and create a new task – consult our guide to creating scheduled tasks for more information. You can create a task that automatically sends an email at a specific time or a task that sends an email in response to a specific event.
When you reach the Action window, select Start a program instead of Send an e-mail.
In the Program/script box, use the Browse button and navigate to the SendEmail.exe file on your computer.
Finally, you’ll have to add the arguments required to authenticate with your SMTP server and construct your email. Here’s a list of the options you can use with SendEmail:
Server Options
-f EMAIL – The email address you’re sending from.
-s SERVER:PORT – The SMTP server and port it requires.
-xu USERNAME – The username you need to authenticate with the SMTP server.
-xp PASSWORD – The password you need to authenticate with the SMTP server.
-o tls=yes – Enables TLS encryption. May be necessary for some SMTP servers.
If you’re using Gmail’s SMTP servers, these are the server options you’ll need:
-s -xu -xp password -o tls=yes
Of course, you’ll have to enter your own email address and password here.
Destination Options
-t EMAIL – The destination email address. You can send an email to multiple addresses by including a space between each address after the -t option.
-cc EMAIL – Any addresses you’d like to CC on the email. You can specify multiple addresses by placing a space between each email address, just as with the -t command above.
-bcc EMAIL – The BCC version of the CC option above.
Email Options
-u SUBJECT – The subject of your email
-m BODY – The message body text of your email.
-a ATTACHMENT – The path of a file you’d like to attach. This is optional.
For example, let’s say your email address is and you’d like to send an email to You’d use the following options:
-f -t -u Subject -m This is the body text! -s -xu -xp password -o tls=yes
Once you’ve put together your options, copy and paste them into the Add arguments box.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How To Create Your Own Custom Google Search Engine


Have you ever wanted to create a custom Google search engine that searches only specific websites? You can easily do this with Google’s Custom Search Engine tool. You can bookmark your search engine and even share it with other people.
This trick works similarly to Google’s site: operator, but you won’t have to type the operator every time you search. It’s particularly useful if you want to search a large number of sites at once.

Creating a Custom Search Engine

To get started, head over to the Google Custom Search Engine page and click the Create a custom search engine button. You’ll need a Google account for this – the search engine will be saved with your Google account.
Enter a name and description for your search engine – these can be anything you like.
The Sites to search field is the one that really matters. Here, you’ll specify a list of the websites you want to search. For example, if you wanted to search both and, you’d enter:**
The * character is the wildcard, which can match anything, so the /* characters tell your search engine to search everything on both of these websites.
There are more advanced things you can do with this box – we’ll get back to that in a bit.
After clicking Next, you can specify a style for your search results and test the search engine you created.
Once you’re happy with your search engine, click the Next button at the bottom of the page and you’ll end up at a page that gives you an embed code for your search engine.
You’re probably not a web developer, so you’ll want to ignore this page. Click the Google Custom Search logo at the top of the page instead.
To get to your search engine’s page, click its name in the list of search engines you’ve created.
You can bookmark this page for easy access your search engine. You can also share your search engine with anyone by sending them the full URL that appears in your address bar.

URL Tricks

You don’t have to specify an entire website while creating your custom search engine.
For example, the custom search engine above searches all areas of If we do an example search, we might see that there’s useful information coming and, but the results (Microsoft’s support forum) are not very helpful.
To exclude and include the other subdomains, we could use the following URL list while creating a search engine:***
Note that there’s no way to exclude a specific subdomain – we can only include the ones we want to search. This list will search only the two subdomains on
There are several other types of URLs you can define in this list:
  • Single Page: You can define only one specific page by entering its URL, such This will include only a single web page in the search engine.
  • Part of a Website: You can use the * character in other ways. For example, the* will search only Microsoft Knowledge Base articles. Using the URL*word* will search all pages on that haveword in their URLs.
You can continue fine-tuning the search engine until you’re happy with the results by clicking the back to step 1 link, modifying the URLs, and then performing another test search.

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About

Internet security is a topic that we all know to be important, but it often sits way back in the recesses of our minds, fooling ourselves into believing that "it won't happen to me". Whether it's the destructive force of the newest virus or just the hacking attempts of a newbie scriptkiddy, we're always only one click away from dealing with a security mess that we'd rather not confront. Nowhere is this truer than in our emails.
Mat Honan wrote a fascinating article over at Wired about Internet security and about how he became a victim of various online security flaws. In it, he wrote, "[The] security lapses are my fault, and I deeply, deeply regret them". He hits home on a very serious truth: in most of the cases where we face hiccups in security, we can trace the issue back to our own ignorance and negligence.
Safe online practices are important to keeping your online identity unadulterated and free from viruses, hackers, and all sorts of Internet-based shenanigans. And the best place to start? Your inbox.
Here are some simple yet important security tips you should know in order to keep your email account as secure as possible.

1. Use Separate Email Accounts

If you're like most people, your email account is probably the centralized hub of your personal activity. All of your Facebook notifications, website registrations, newsletters, messages, etc. get sent to your email box, right? That means you're putting all of your eggs in one basket - if that basket happens to fall, you'll lose all your eggs with it.
In other words, if you bring all of your activity into a single email account, what happens when someone breaks into it? I'd say it's plausible that they would gain access to everything else. This is why you should use multiple email accounts.
Having separate email accounts will not only help boost your security, but also your productivity. Imagine if you could consolidate all of your work emails into a single work account; all of your friends and family communicate with your personal account; you have a recreational account for various websites; and a throwaway account for potential spam links. This way, if someone hacks your work account, all of your personal emails are still safe.

2. Create A Unique Password

Going along with the multiple account idea, you should also have an entirely unique password for each of your email accounts. Even if you decide to keep one "master" email account, make sure that its password is 100% unique.
Using one password for all of your accounts is a rookie-level mistake. Suppose someone did hack into your personal email and they see all of your incoming Facebook notifications, eBay reminders, and more. Any half-wit hacker will test those accounts with the same password as your email account-and in your case, they would succeed.
This is common advice, I know, but so many people still neglect it. Admittedly, for the longest time, I too used the same password for literally every account that I had. When one of my friends figured out my password (without messing with anything, thankfully), I knew it was time to wise up.

3. Beware Of Phishing Scams

When dealing with a particular company or product that requires account information, have you ever seen the following message: "Never give away your personal information. We will never ask you for your password." When someone sends you an email asking you for your personal information, you know right away that it's a trick.
But there's another level to this scam and it's called "phishing." Basically, malicious users will imitate and impersonate high-profile websites (e.g., eBay, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) and say that they're experiencing trouble with your account; all you have to do to fix it is to send them your username and password to verify your authenticity. Sometimes they'll even link you to a false website that looks exactly like the real thing.
Be wary. In fact, whenever your personal information is ever brought up in a non-face-to-face capacity, your scam detector should go off loud and clear.

4. Never Click Links In Emails

Phishing brings me to my next point. Whenever you see a link in an email, 99% of the time you should not click on it. The only exceptions are when you're expecting a particular email, such as a forum registration link or game account activation email. Things like that.
If you receive a spam email that tries to sell you a particular service or product, never click on any of the links inside. You never know where they'll lead you. Sometimes they might be safe; other times they'll bring you straight to the doors of hell and swarm you with malware and viruses.
If you get an email from your bank or any other service (e.g., bill payments), always visit the website manually. No copy and paste. No direct clicking. You'll thank yourself later.

5. Do Not Open Unsolicited Attachments

Attachments are a tricky thing when it comes to email. If you're expecting something from a buddy or an uncle, then sure, go ahead and open the attachment. Have a laugh at the funny photo they sent you. It's all good when you knowthe person sending the attachment.
But if the email is unsolicited, never open any attachments. Even if the file looks innocent, you could be in for a world of hurt. Filenames can be spoofed. JPEGs could be EXEs in disguise and those EXEs will run as soon as they're downloaded. And then you'll have a virus on your hands.

6. Scan For Viruses & Malware

If you open an email and it seems suspicious in any way, go ahead and run a malware and virus scanner. Not every spam email will infect you with a virus and it may seem like overkill to run a malware scanner every time you open a fishy email, but it's better to be safe than sorry. The one time that you decide to let it go could be the time your computer loads a keylogger.

7. Avoid Public Wi-Fi

And lastly, avoid checking your email when you're on public Internet. Yes, I know that when you're waiting for an airplane to reach your gate, it can be tempting to whip out your smartphone or laptop and check for new messages. Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi can be extremely insecure.
There are programs out there called "network sniffers" that run passively in the background of some hacker's device. The sniffer monitors all of the wireless data flowing through a particular network - and that data can be analyzed for important information. Like your username and password.
It's strange that as the years go by, security grows tighter in some ways and we remain just as vulnerable as we've always been in other ways. Email security comes down to common sense and careful decisions. Don't let laziness and convenience overshadow your desire for protection and peace.