How to manually detect malware with Process Hacker
November 30, 2009 – 15:43 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on How to manually detect malware with Process Hacker

phackerInstalling a regularly-updated antivirus tool will ensure you’re protected against most malware, but no security suite is 100% effective, and of course they’re all vulnerable to the very latest threats. So if your PC is behaving strangely and you think you might have been infected by something nasty, but your antivirus tool says otherwise, then you need another way to explore what’s going on. And we’ve the perfect candidate.

Launch Process Hacker and at first it looks like a more colourful version of Task Manager, with details on all the processes running on your PC. And you can use it in much the same way. Click Hacker > Show Details for All Processes, then scroll down the list, looking for any process name that seems unfamiliar.

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Wallpaper Juggler downloads and automatically sets great desktop backgrounds
November 27, 2009 – 11:14 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Wallpaper Juggler downloads and automatically sets great desktop backgrounds

jugglerTired of your dull desktop? New wallpaper could make all the difference, but first you’ll have to locate the best sources, find images in the right aspect ratio, download them somewhere and remember to change the background occasionally. If all that seems like too much hassle then you’ll probably carry on just as you are.

There is a simpler way, though, and it’s called Wallpaper Juggler. Just download and unzip the tiny executable (226KB), and it’ll add an icon to your system tray. Right-click that, choose the Download Wallpaper option and in a click you can start downloading wallpapers from InterfaceLIFT or Wallpaperstock. Well, that’s the theory – in practice InterfaceLIFT now blocks the downloads, apparently. We had more luck with Wallpaperstock, though, and the program downloaded more than 150 wallpapers with the correct resolution for our screen, in less than 60 seconds.

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SPlayer is a fast, lightweight and stylish new media player
November 26, 2009 – 11:09 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on SPlayer is a fast, lightweight and stylish new media player

splayerIf your current media player is slow, resource-hungry, or just can’t handle all the files you throw at it, then it may be time to try a replacement – and SPlayer is an ideal candidate. It’s a small download (under 6MB) that installs quickly, can optionally set itself up as your default player, and is then ready to play whatever videos, audio files, CDs or DVDs that you need.

The interface is appealing. Instead of the usual bulky toolbars and menus, SPlayer has bars at the top and bottom of the screen that only fade in when you move the mouse cursor in their direction. These give speedy access to all the usual playback controls, and some more interesting features, too: one-click image capture, optional high quality image resizer (useful for full-screen views), transparency control, audio and video processing (equalizer, sharpening, deinterlace, denoise filters), easy subtitle control (change subtitles, set font, adjust its size) and a whole lot more.

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Keep your Vista PC safe with this hidden security setting
November 25, 2009 – 11:35 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Keep your Vista PC safe with this hidden security setting

sehopThe holy grail of hackers comes in finding a way to make you run their code without even realising, and that often requires considerable low-level knowledge of how Windows works. For example, every program has its own exception handlers, small pieces of software that are used to handle events outside of the flow of normal code (a divide by zero error, say). If an exception occurs, the program passes control to the memory address of its handler. But hackers have developed a technique that allows them to overwrite the exception handler’s address with the location of their own code. If they can then create an exception then your program will run their code, and that’s it – you’re infected.

Microsoft know this is a problem, though, and have developed effective counter-measures: SEHOP (Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection). New programs are compiled in a way that makes it much harder to overwrite exception handler addresses. And Windows can now actually check that your exception handler list hasn’t been altered before it calls any code – but that’s where there’s a problem.

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How to speed up Adobe Reader
November 24, 2009 – 11:49 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on How to speed up Adobe Reader

PDFLogoAdobe’s PDF is the web’s format of choice for exchanging documents, and so every PC needs the ability to view them. But opting for the obvious choice of Adobe Reader has a cost: it’s slow to load, not much better at rendering pages, and requires more RAM than you might expect, too.

You don’t have to put up with this, though. Much of Adobe Reader’s bloat comes from the pile of plug-ins that are installed by default, most of which carry out obscure functions that you’ll never use. There’s no interface to disable these, but once you know where to look it’s easy to turn off the plug-ins you don’t need, cutting Adobe Reader’s startup time and reducing its RAM footprint.

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Quick Tip: How to save a little Vista RAM
November 23, 2009 – 13:10 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Quick Tip: How to save a little Vista RAM

activityWindows Vista is a resource hog, but turning off unnecessary features can help make a difference.  Do you really need the network icon in your system tray to flash whenever you send or receive information, for instance?  Enabling this uses some CPU time and loads an extra Vista component, swallowing up a little memory.  If you can do without it for a while then right-click the icon, select “Turn off activity animation” and you’ll recover the RAM immediately.

If you don’t use ReadyBoost then that’s an even better candidate for removal. Click Start, type services.msc and press [Enter], then scroll down the list and double-click the ReadyBoost service. Click the Stop button to free up any RAM it’s using right now, set its Startup Type to Disabled and the service won’t be started when you next reboot, leaving more memory for the applications and services that you actually use.

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Is PeaZip the best portable file archiver?
November 23, 2009 – 12:37 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Is PeaZip the best portable file archiver?

peazipThere are plenty of free file archiving tools around – you can even use Explorer, if you’re really desperate – but we think the latest release of PeaZip shows it’s still the one to beat.

There’s read support for all the archiving formats you’d expect, for instance: ZIP, TAR, CAB, GZIP and BZIP, old formats like LHA and LZH, some Mac files (DMG/ HFS, though not SIT or SITX), Linux archives (DEB, PET/PUP, RPM, SLP), and more. And the program can also extract the contents of many other file types, including MSI installers, Microsoft Office documents (DOC, XLS, PPT), Windows Help files (CHM), disc images (ISO) and others.

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Combine all the most useful Control Panel applets into one simple tool
November 20, 2009 – 12:44 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Combine all the most useful Control Panel applets into one simple tool

mmcFinding the Control Panel applet you need can be difficult, even in Windows 7. First you’ll browse through the categories, then you’ll display the individual applets. Then you’ll try the search, and discover it only works in Category view, so you have to switch back. It’s a real mess.

There is a way to avoid all these navigation hassles, though – just build your own custom Control Panel applet that contains all the features you need. Device Manager, the Event Viewer, Disk Services, Printers, whatever you use most often can easily be assembled into a single tool that means you’ll never have to go browsing for applets again.

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Speed up Firefox in seconds
November 19, 2009 – 10:46 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Speed up Firefox in seconds

speedyfoxFirefox stores bookmarks and various other sets of data in small self-contained databases. This works well for performance at first, but over time, as you add new bookmarks, delete and rearrange others, so the database becomes bloated and starts to slow you down.  You don’t have to put up with this, though – it’s easy to compact your database, optimising its layout and improving performance.

If you’re happy at the command line and would like complete control over what’s going on, then the best option is to download SQLite. Close Firefox if it’s running, then open a command line and change to a folder containing one of the large .sqlite files in your Firefox profile: \Users\[UserName]\AppData\Local\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[ProfileName]\ in Vista, say.

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Monitor your PCs open internet connections with TCPView
November 18, 2009 – 11:24 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Monitor your PCs open internet connections with TCPView

tcpviewAt any one time a typical PC will have a host of applications trying to get online. There might be a browser, perhaps; an email client checking your Inbox; an antivirus program downloading the latest signatures, or one of your other programs calling home to see if there’s an updated version available.

Of course if your PC has been infected by something nasty then the list may also detail more dubious activities, like spyware trying to transmit your personal information to its owner, or bots downloading new ways to compromise your system. That’s why it pays to check your open connections, just occasionally, to make sure you know exactly how your internet connection is being used.

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Automatically set your wallpaper to the daily Bing image
November 17, 2009 – 21:57 by Mike Williams in News | Comments Off on Automatically set your wallpaper to the daily Bing image

bingpaperMicrosoft have finally launched Bing in the UK, clearly hoping that goodies like visual search,web page previews and Ciao-powered price comparisons will win your search business. But the most immediately obvious feature remains the spectacular background images, well worth a daily look.

Of course if Google is still your research favourite then you probably won’t be heading Bingwards that often, but there’s no need to miss the images. Run BingPaper and it’ll download and display today’s picture: if you like the shot, click Go and it’ll automatically be set as your wallpaper.

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