CNET Download.com's Seth Rosenblatt walks us through his tips on antivirus and security software and answers a bunch of questions on the topic. Also, how to network schools in remotest Alaska, what to do with laptops that won't lie flat, and how not to get socked by data fees when you take your iPhone to Europe.
Rafe NeedlemanFormer Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Josh is down at Apple getting the brainwashing. Briefing. Whatever. So Seth from Download is here instead, filling us in on the latest in antivirus and security software.
Also, your questions answered, like, How do I network schoolroom in Alaska? How much will AT&T gouge me for when I take my iPhone to France? And, if my laptop doesn't open far enough, is it OK to snap its hinges?
Got a tech question? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or leave it at our new toll-free number: 877-438-6688
Security and safety
First up: Seth's advice on apps and education.
Listener Questions Celeste Burrows: A few days ago I made the mistake of purchasing the iYogi suite of security software along with Carbonite. I had become infected with a virus even though I had System Mechanic running, scanning every time I turned on my computer.
I did some basic (and obviously flawed) research and chose iYogi only due to its affordability (we're really broke right now and I needed something to protect myself) and the fact that they are a Microsoft subcontractor. It took several hours to get the product installed and then another three hours inside my hard drive to remove viruses and bad software.
Today I go online and can't access my e-mail and my screen freezes. Then I restarted, went into Explorer to discover they've changed my preferences.
Is there any way I can get a refund and if so how? Then I want to know how to uninstall safely and completely and which product to purchase.
Seth: Best solution is to contact the customer support. Most firms offer a 30-day trial, so hopefully you'll get your money back without much effort. If they stonewall you, though, don't hesitate to escalate.
Chandra: Is there a program and/or browser tweak that will prevent sites that automatically log you out after x minutes of inactivity from doing so? I understand that in many instances this is done for security purposes (online banking, for example), but my particular issue is with online ebook access. I tend to flip through multiple textbooks and may spend a lot of time on one book's tab, only to find out that when I want to look at another, it has already signed me out. Some sites are worse than others with an incredibly short inactivity window of 5 minutes or so. It would be even greater if this fix (a) could be used on public browsers such as in university computer labs and (b) were toggleable so that I could maintain security when doing things like online banking yet still be able to keep my textbooks open for long periods of time. Help!
Seth: This is a bad idea. That security protocol is there for a reason: To keep your login from being compromised. You can use a plug-in like LastPass which has an auto-login feature to automatically log you in whenever the site is loaded, that might keep you logged in.
Rafe: Lastpass is excellent. I use it for this purpose myself. And it's free.
Voicemail from Jerry, on a slow-booting computer.
Rafe: MSConfig is a good option. The new free app Soluto does essentially the same thing, but with more hand-holding. Also check out Process Explorer to see what's running
Thomas: After iTunes bugging me for weeks I finally decided to upgrade to iTunes 10. After I had completed the upgrade I tried to launch iTunes and was greeted with a message saying "windows error code 2." After a quick Google of the problem I tried uninstalling and then reinstalling and had the same result. Apparently it is because my computer does not have Apple Application Manager installed, but I have no idea how to install this by itself (it is meant to install itself when iTunes installs) any ideas? My computer is a Dell laptop running Windows Vista. Also thought you might be interested to find out you have listeners all the way down here in Auckland, New Zealand. Cheers.
Seth: Do a complete, full uninstall of iTunes. Use a program like Revo Uninstaller and set it to aggressively check your Registry, the highest and slowest setting. Then download a new installer for iTunes and try again.
Android 2.2 is already available, so why are some new phones being sold with 2.1? If I own an Android phone, why do I have to wait for the phone manufacturer and/or cellular provider to make the update available to me? Why can't I just go to the Web and download the firmware myself?
Josh: The simple reason is that big companies move slowly, and that some of the phones we're seeing now had their software development locked in back when 2.2 was just coming out.
The good news is that if it's a popular one, there is a very large community of people making custom builds of Android that you can install on the device if you don't mind voiding your warranty. Otherwise, go with a manufacturer that is quick to update like Motorola and HTC. There's a good chance they're working on a 2.2 update for that phone as we speak.
Rafe: On why this is the problem with Android...
Dex: Using Apple's Time Machine, how do I backup my Macbook Pro over my home network to a non-Apple machine product? I know this isn't certified by Mr. Jobs, but I would like to include this option in my current backup procedures. Rafe, on a previous show, I think you mentioned that you were already doing this.
Rafe: No can do, as far as I know. I use an HP Mediasmart server, which runs Windows Home Server, and which is a specialized product for small networks. My solution for Time Machine backups of your Mac: Get a cheap USB drive. Much less hassle than trying to force-fit a network solution.
Josh (a different Josh): I am currently looking for a new backup solution. I have been backing up my data to the cloud via Box.net. I have also been backing up my files to a flash drive. I am now looking for a better online backup solution. I would like something that has more than 2GB of space and is free of charge. Do you guys have any suggestions on any companies that offer free online backup?
Rafe: 2GB is the free limit. However, you can always mail yourself stuff in GMail or hack around it that way.
Seth: Trend Micro has a suite that comes with their Protection Suite.
Noor Choudry: What is the best and cheapest way to backup? And which is better, cloud backup or physical backup?
Rafe: Cloud for reliability; Local for speed.
Tim Phillips: I am a teacher at a rural Eskimo village in Alaska. My fellow teachers and I recently got the Internet at home. Hooray! No broadband, unfortunately, we are forced to use satellite Internet because of the village's remoteness. We have one satellite dish and one modem to be shared between two four-plexes side by side (about 10-15 feet apart) and between 10 machines. Because of our situation, it would be too costly to add another dish. Our current plan is to use one Apple Base Station Extreme (draft N) in one building and another of the same to extend the signal in the other building. The Base Stations will probably be anywhere from 15-25 feet apart and separated by walls and the like. Do you have any suggestions to help the Wi-Fi signal between the two buildings from being too diminished? Do Apple Base Station Extremes have good range or should we invest in external antennas for the Base Stations or just invest in some other routers with big antennas?
Darren says: Enable WDS - Wireless Distribution System. It's in the Apple base stations. And check out making your own tinfoil reflector to focus the signals. See FreeAntennas.com. It really works.
Jonathan from NJ: The lid on my Netbook does not open wide enough! Is there any mechanical way to break the hinges to make them open wider or even flat? I'm one of the rare believers that prefer Netbooks to the iPad, but it seems to me that Netbooks are being crippled in various ways from Windows 7 Starter to the 1024x600 sub-HD screens that aren't 4:3 so they don't look great in portrait mode...and this screen lid that barely opens wide enough. It's an HP Mini 210, cookie-cutter 10-inch machine that I got on sale.
Any help and snide jibes are greatly appreciated. Love the show.
Rafe: Thinkpads open all the way. Others laptops include (courtesy of my Twitter followers):
Sony Vaio VGN- CR290; Sony Vaio VGN SZ370P; Toshiba Equium A100-147 (I think it's called the Satellite in the US); Acer Aspire 5570z; Acer Aspire 9420; Dell Latitude XT; HP EliteBook 8530W. Listener Justin adds: My terrible Dell 1525 opens all the way. I know this because the hinges are so loose that if I pick it up too fast it falls all the way back... good times.
Rafe's friend John writes: Quick update on the iPhone international issue [John got a gigantic data roaming bill after a trip to Europe]: The call center guy put my bill on hold (in dispute), and documented what I had *tried* to do (I upgraded to the international data plan pre-paid from the app on my phone while I was traveling). The issue was this: if you put an international data plan on your phone, unless you actually talk to ATT, it all prorates during the period that you have it active (I had it active for 10 days, so my 200mb prepay was only worth 67mb). So what you are *supposed* to do is to call and talk to ATT and they will back-date plans in order to make it cover the period appropriately. Prepaid data is as low as $1/mb. Data overages are (gulp) $5/mb. I say again, $5/mb.
I got a Bill Adjustment Request submitted on my behalf--my tech said that that anything over $1,000, the management team reviews it (mine was $1,500 for 12 days!).
Best idea in retrospect -- buy the extra international text messages, buy a small data plan and call ATT to upgrade while you go as needed, but rely on Wi-Fi as much as you possibly can (pre-download maps while you're Wi-Fi connected, use txtplus or something like that for SMS over Wi-Fi, etc etc).
Followup from Dr. F: Just wanted to send you my thanks, I took my laptop back and the store replaced it without hassle. Things are working great, thanks for your advice, I would have spent weeks trying to fix things that would never have worked. You guys rock!
Dr. F from Santa Rosa
Michael C. Richman: About the question on merging 2 drives another option is if the drive is not a system drive Windows allows you to set it up as a dynamic disk and add it to a disk. The catch is that it can't be the system drive.
Rafe: Interesting idea, but an obscure Windows feature. And, again, we can't recommend it, for reliability reasons.