There are times when things break or stop working, this is a reality we all face. Computers seem to break on the software level more often than not and we need to take them to a shop to get fixed or repair them ourselves. I personally prefer the latter option. The truth is that it is cheaper to do it your self and then you know what is being done to your computer. Unfortunately, or fortunately for computer repair men, many people do not know how to fix basic computer problems. Here are some tools I use regularly to keep Windows PCs clean and fix them when they are already infected.

CCleaner

ccleaner-09-700x502CCleaner is one of the first programs that I hear when computer maintenance is mentioned.  CCleaner is a simple program that has some great features.

CCleaner will clean up you temporary files that Windows leaves behind along with browser cookies, web history, and form history. Windows is one of the worst offenders when it comes to house keeping and leaves a lot of temporary files behind when it is done with a task. CCleaner will clean up temporary files from many programs including web browsers and Bit Torrent Clients (Which is good if you torrent a lot of files). My dad is one of the worst at keeping his computer clean, I ran this and was able to remove around 40 GB of temporary files from Internet Explorer alone (he is a zealous IE user for some reason). After cleaning you may see a significant increase in disc space and performance if you have a lot of temporary files.

CCleaner also has a Registry Cleaner which will keep your registry clean of dead registry files. This will not free up your hard drive of much space, but you may see a performance boost.

CCleaner is freely available here and is under the Freemium License.

Malwarebytes

MalwarebytesAnti-Malware1.5_04largeNow this is a tool that I do not use often, however when a computer gets malware this is the tool for the job. I have not used it much, but I have experienced some ransomware that my anti-virus did not detect till it was to late. Boot up in safe mode and run this and it will remove many forms of malware.

The free version will be the most you will need for most situations, but in my experience you will need to update the malware database manually each time there is an update.

For more advanced users or commercial use there is a premium edition that offers scheduled scans, real-time protection (scans new files as they appear), and an alternative scanning mode.

Malwarebytes is freely available here.

Comodo Internet Security

comodo-internet-security-2013Anti-virus and Firewall are a very personal choice. Comodo is my personal recommendation. Comodo Internet Security is a free security suite that includes a Firewall and Anti-virus.

Comodo has a great database that is kept up to date and the Firewall learns from you. It gets extremely annoying when setting up as it will pop up a window every time you run a program for the first time asking if you wish to allow it permissions it asks for. Its virus scanner is a bit too sensitive in that it will pick up anything that acts like or looks like a virus and will quarantine it. Despite these flaws it is, in my biased opinion, one of the best free Anti-viruses and Firewalls.

It includes Anti-Spyware, Anti-Rootkit, Bot Protection, Auto Sandboxing, and Anti-Malware.

You can get Comodo here.

This is a basic list of software in a future post I may write about more advanced programs like Hiren’s BootCD and other Live CDs.

I hope that you find this software useful, tell me your thoughts and favorite computer repair/ tuneup software.

 

 If you are anything like me, you probably do not like the new look Mozilla created for Firefox 29. Fortunately there is a way to change it back. All that you will need is a simple add-on and a two line CSS edit.

Classic Theme Restorer

The first step will be to install the Classic Theme Restorer (Customize Australis) add-on by Aris. This add-on is still in beta so it may contain bugs and we can expect updates in the future.

Once you install it you should go to the Add-ons Manager and find the add-on. Under its preferences menu you are given many options. Some of the basic options I recommend selecting are: Star-button in urlbar, movable status-bar panel, combine stop & reload buttons, and Hide add-on bars close button. There are many more opions available and I recommend that you try them all out.

The next thing to do is move your icons where you want them. Once you have customized everything to your liking you can right click the customization button and remove it from the screen.

CSS

Something that you may have noticed was that the Classic Theme Restorer does not give you the option to edit the height of tabs, only the width. The size of the tabs in Firefox 29 are a bit large for small screens, especially if you use toolbars. To fix this we will use a little CSS.

The first thing we want to do is find our Profile folder. The location of the profile folder depends on your Operating System. You can read this page to find out where it is on your OS.

Mine is located at: /home/mlamont/.mozilla/firefox/o5meaoc7.default/

Once you find your profile folder we need to make a new folder named chrome. Within that folder we are going to make a new text document and name it userChrome.css. If you are using Linux, remember that Linux is case-sensitive. Now open the new file with the text editor of you choice. We are going to type the following:

@namespace url(“http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul”);

#TabsToolbar { height: 15px !important; }

You may change “15px” to anything you want, but it is a good size.

Now we are done. If you know basic CSS you may want to do some more tinkering with the .CSS file.

When it comes to word processing most think Microsoft Word, but there are other alternatives out there. Once I got into high school I learned that I could not get away with just a pen and a piece of paper, I needed to type things up on the computer. I was introduced to Microsoft Office 2003, I was amazed at the power of the program, I went home and asked my dad about it, then I learned the price.

If you ever needed a word processor or any other office program and lacked the money to pay Microsoft, you know my problem. The only option I saw was to pirate a copy from Demonoid; I disliked the idea, but the price was too much. Then I found out that there were free alternatives. Well that is enough rambling. I found LibreOffice, an office program that had everything Microsoft had plus extendability.

LibreOffice has a word processor, slide show creator, and spreadsheet processing. It supports Microsoft’s formats along with XML and a set of it’s own. The word processing capabilities are enough for most home users. With an intuitive interface that is easy to navigate and modify; you could format a paper, write a book, export documents as PDF files, create tables and chats, and just about anything you could with Microsoft Word. All of this is free.

LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org and is open source. It works cross platform and can be modified from the source code, if you wish to change something you don’t like. One nice feature is the fact that it uses good old tool bars and drop down menus; in case you did not know, I hate Microsoft’s ribbon interface.

LibreOffice has it’s problems, but it has enough power for most users. Microsoft Office can handle larger documents better and has best compatibility with other Microsoft products, but if you are looking for something on a budget, LibreOffice has the tools you need.

I would like to get some feedback and know what you would like to see on this blog, it would be most appreciated.

 

I use Firefox as my default browser on all of my computers. Google Chrome is more popular nowadays, but Firefox has a solid extension library and I never had any problems with it. The extension library is one of the reasons I use it over any other browser. Here are some to the extensions that I have found most helpful.

Adblock Plus

The most popular Firefox extension (it is available for Google Chrome as well), Adblocck Plus blocks advertizements. You can create whitelists so that you can support the websites you love, without getting bombarded with excessive ads on other sites. Ads have their place; but if a website has five ads per page or has some improper ads, then it is good to save your bandwidth and block the ads. Ads help keep the sites you love online, so please consider whitelisting them.

Add to Search Bar

Have you ever wished that you could add a new search engine to Firefox with a few clicks? This little extension allows you to. I use a lot of different websites and need to search them easily. I could use a custom Google search, but that adds more steps than necessary. There are other ways to add custom search engines, but I find that this does it the best.

Firebug

Firebug is a web development console for web developers. You can quickly view and test HTML and CSS code. This is a must have for web developers and is a fun toy for anyone who would like to play with the source of web pages. For kids it is a great way to show off your fake “hacking” skills.

FoxLingo

This is not the most popular or lightweight translator for Firefox, but it is rich in features that would be helpful to anyone working internationally. It had built-in support for many online translators and has instant dictionary look up for words you do not know. The only problems with it is that it is by no means lightweight and it attempts to get you to install other extensions along with it.

HTTPS-Everywhere

With more websites offering HTTPS you would think that the web would be safer, however most websites connect you to HTTP automatically. HTTPS-Everywhere connects you to HTTPS whenever it is available. There are other extensions that do this, but they can be slow or even prevent you from connecting to websites that only provide HTTP. Unlike extensions that search each website for HTTPS, HTTPS-Everywhere has a whitelist full of websites that offer HTTPS. This white list allows you to connect to websites that only offer HTTP and keeps you from having to scanning each site you go to.

Social Fixer

I hate having to use Facebook. It would be a simple mater of not logging in if not for the fact that most of my contacts use Facebook for their main form of communication. Social Fixer gets rid of many of the annoying things in Facebook while adding in some useful features of it’s own. It can help filter your news feed, reorganize the look of Facebook, and many other optimizing features. If you use Facebook, it is strongly recommended that you use this extension

 

Many know that a court stated that the FCC lacks the authority to enforce Net Neutrality. This means that the FCC holds no power to prevent ISPs from discriminating against websites. The main fear that many who use the internet have is that this could lead to stronger censorship in the United States. This fear is justified in that, without Net Neutrality, ISPs could slow down connections to content that they do not like.

Net Neutrality is an idea that I don’t think exists in reality. ISPs may respect it, but nothing is really preventing them from slowing down connections. Back in the early years of faster internet, companies like Comcast were slowing down internet connections to their enemies sites. Net Neutrality can not really be enforced, who is to say that the website is not just slow? Unless there is an investigation, no one would know.

Net Neutrality is one of the lesser concerns of internet freedom; it is important as an idea to uphold, but it does not really hold any real value other than preventing the taking of more freedom. That being said, we should fight for it, just not for having it, but rather to prevent them from taking more away.

   When it comes to Windows, the way you start your programs is not always the fastest. Normally you would click a desktop icon, task bar launcher, or go under the start menu. This method is not bad, however there is a better way to do it.

Launchy

   Launchy is a wonderful application launcher that gives you access to your programs with a few keystrokes. Launchy will find every program that installed on your computer, even if you can’t find it in your program files directory. The basics of how it works is simple, you press the keyboard shortcut to activate Launchy, then you start to type in the name of the program you want to launch. You do not even need to type out the whole name of the program you wish to use, I can type ff for Firefox or ch for Google Chrome.

   Launchy is open source, free, and runs on all major operating systems. One of the best parts of Launchy is that it is extendable with many add-ons and skins, this allows you to make it look haw you want it to and makes it very powerful whilst still retaining its ease of use. You can get Launchy here at their website.

 

I use a lot of programs between multiple computers. Most of the time these computers have different operating systems so I need cross-platform applications. Open source programs have come a long way over the years and no many can compete with commercial software. I use open source software because it is cross0platform, usually light weight, and it is free. I use these programs on both my dad’s Windows Desktop and my Linux laptop.

Firefox (Web Browser)

Firefox is light weight and extendable. I have been using Firefox for as long as I have been a using open source software. It’s extendability is key, it has all the tools I could ever need. It is also more secure than internet explore and I dislike that Google Chrome is spying on you every second. If you are using internet explore I strongly advise you to try Firefox.

Thunderbird (Email Client)

I use Gmail for email service, but I do not like to use the web interface. Thunderbird is as extendable as Firefox and has a great spam filter. It is easy to set up custom filters to organize your mail for you and you can be logged into multiple email accounts at once. Also I download all of my emails so that if the internet is down or Google goes down, I will still have all of my emails. If you use multiple accounts, want better organization of emails, or hate Microsoft Outlook I can not recommend this enough.

LibreOffice (Office Program)

I would never use Microsoft Office if my school allowed me to run this on the computer lab computers. It is fast, extendable, and almost as powerful as Microsoft Office. I will grant that Microsoft office can handle bigger files better and is better for enterprise publishing, but LibreOffice is free and strong enough for anyone short of a major publisher. LibreOffice is much cheeper than Office, with a price tag of free, and can open all of Microsoft’s formats. If you must you can even save your work in Microsoft’s formats. It comes with everything you need: a word processor, a presentation maker, and a spreadsheet program. The best part is that it doesn’t have that horrible ribbon interface.

WINE (Windows Compatibility Layer)

Wine Is Not an Emulator (WINE), is a compatibility layer for windows programs running on Linux. I love open source programs, but sometimes you need a commercial program to do what you need. Most of these programs are Windows only, but I use a Linux environment most of the time. Wine allows me to run these programs. It may not be perfect, but it gets the job done most of the time. I usually use it to run games rather than work related programs, but I use it when making my RPG Maker XP game.

When away from home I usually have a copy of all, excluding Wine, on my USB drive. I hope you find these programs helpful and merry Christmas.

I just started this blog.

I just got Cairo-Dock working on my Linux computer. I don’t know why I need a dock, but it was hard to instal and it looks nice now that I got it working. It is very customizable and even has an application launcher. It was designed for the Gnome desktop environment, so it did not look so nice until I modified it to look good on KDE. It looks like it was always there, now if I was not to afraid to install Compiz fusion, I would have a desktop that looks like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QokOwvPxrE
I have Kwin, it can’t do half of the stuff that can and it still amazes people. Just imagine if I did this. Of Course I am running off a laptop so I do not have a powerful graphics card. If I do too much, I might crash my computer.