Recent security-related problems that some of my friends on Twitter have experienced have caused me to re-examine my choice of operating system. My computer came with Windows Vista Home Basic which I found to be a stable platform for virtually all my needs until… I became active on Twitter. In order to keep my system clean I have had to install several PC security programs. Currently I have…
Web of Trust – This is a free plugin for Mozilla Firefox. It rates all URLs you may visit based on their reliability. Is it a spamming site, a phishing site, does it want to install questionable scripts or software? If other users have raised suspicions about the site a large warning dialog will pop open in the middle of your screen. From this dialog you can view the site’s rating, proceed to the site anyway or simply cancel your visit to that URL. An excellent addition that I would recommend to any Firefox user.
Web of Trust is available at:
The Shield Deluxe 2009 – This is a realtime heuristics based antivirus program that scans all incoming files for potential problems. It can also be used to scan and analyse your hard drive for viruses, trojans, etc. The Shield Deluxe 2009 is a commercial package. I enrolled for a 2 year subscription for $59.95.
You can download a feature-limited version for CNet at this URL:
Advanced System Care – Another virus scanner available as a free program or as a combination virus scanner and system optimizer which runs at intervals throughout the day. It cleans up the system registry, removes browsing history and does various other system optimization tasks on each pass. The free version does not include system optimization but does include a very good virus scanner. The registered version (only $19.95) enables all the features. A very good program, in my opinion.
You can download Advanced System Care from IoBit here:
Spybot Search and Destroy – Spybot has been around for a long, long time earning an excellent reputation for finding trojans, keylogger, rootkits and other nasties that some of the other programs miss. It is still free and even though it doesn’t run in realtime I consider it an essential tool in the Windows repertoire.
Other programs I have tried are…
AVG Free – Similar to The Shield Deluxe 2009 in that it performs a heuristics based realtime scan of incoming files whether from the web or any other source. I tried the free version but found it ran too slowly on my system. Web pages were sluggish to open, system dialog windows suffered delays in opening, etc. This may simply be related to my system as AVG Free does have a very good reputation. You can try it for yourself at:
Malwarebytes – Like Spybot Search and Destroy this is not a realtime scanner. It also has a very good reputation for ferreting out hard to detect trojans, keyloggers, rootkits and the like. On my system it tended to be unstable and much slower in operation than claims made for it. Compared to the other scanning software I used it only found one registry entry (which was empty) that was not found by the others. If you want to check it out on your system it’s available at:
With all this good antivirus, popup blocking, antiphishing, trojan fighting, keylogger detecting, rootkit eradicating stuff you would think I would be happy… NOT!! It has turned my formerly quick Windows Vista system into a “click and go make a cup of tea” sluggard! Too many programs vying for CPU cycles? Maybe, but each of them has strong points that make up for capabilites lacking in the others. I could disable or de-install them but only at the risk of opening up my Windows Vista system to a host of nasty stuff waiting to tunnel their way in from the Web.
What to do? What to do? Why not try something different? Microsoft Windows may rule as the most widely used operating system in this universe but there are other universes freely open to explore without buying a different computer. So I decided to give the Linux system another try after several years of avoiding it.
Linux has earned a well-deserved reputation for being a hacker’s or computer geek’s operating system. When I tried it several years ago it was beginning to become civilized… something the average PC user could understand and make use of. In particular the appearance of Ubuntu on the Linux scene moved Linux out of the realm of mysterious command lines and kludgy user interfaces. Ubuntu was poised to make Linux a serious contender in the home computer marketplace except… it was still more difficult to use than Windows except for rather mundane daily tasks, checking email, writing letters, browsing the Web and the like. Software for many other tasks was available but tended to be hard to install and kludgy in appearance, operation or both.
That was yesterday. Ubuntu has grown up! The release of Ubuntu 9.10 (aka Karmic Koala) on 31 October 2009 has changed all that. Ubuntu now comes not only with a stable and virtually virus-proof operating system it is loaded with real software. The superb Firefox 3.5 is the default web browser. Need compatibility with Microsoft Office files or the ability to create PDF documents? The full OpenOffice suite is standard. Want to watch or create DVDs or CDs? It’s in there. Need to manage your time and appointments? It’s also in there and just one click away in the desktop or any window. Like to use AIM or other chat applications? No need to look for an application because access to all the common chat programs is on your taskbar. Like to work with photos and other graphics? Organizing your photo and graphic files is included. There is no Photoshop equivalent but you may find the included GImp image editor does all you need.
In short… Ubuntu is well worth the time to download an ISO image, burn it to CD then give it a try. You can run it from the CD or install it within Windows to create a dual-boot system. At bootup you have option of running your existing Windows OS or booting into Ubuntu.
How long will it take to do all this? About an hour or a little more for the download, burning the CD and running the installation. Your Windows system and software will remain undisturbed. You will need 17GB of free space on your hard drive for installation. Of this about 5GB is used for Ubuntu OS and programs leaving approximately 12GB free for storage.
Where do you go for Ubuntu? At Ubuntu of course:
What can you expect? A very clean, uncluttered desktop, quick access to programs organized into logical categories, equally quick access to your file system again pre-organized into logical categories and, once again, quick access to system settings and preferences organized in a clear and intuitive manner.
You will probably also notice that bootup time is reduced, applications open quicker and just a generally ‘snappier’ feel when operating. Most important of all (at least in my case) is…
You don’t need all that anti-virus software clogging up and slowing down your computer. Why? It’s all about the inherent security something called “Permissions”. Rather than stumble through a description here, read the article on the Linux website at this address:
Still… if you run a dual-boot system and/or share files with users of virus prone computers you might consider adding some additional protection for those you share files with. Ubuntu has some recommendations for compatible antivirus software which you can find at:
I have not tried any of these packages yet since the built-in protections of the Linux OS, Firefox and Web of Trust (yes, WOT is compatible) seems adequate to me.
Since on my prime goals was to continue my chosen way of accessing and contributing to the #iranelection hashtag on Twitter I considered it absolutely essential to access both Twitter and Twitterfall on separate tabs in Firefox PLUS have Tweetdeck running in a separate window. I could not do this in Ubuntu 9.04 (the previous distribution) but am very happy to report that it runs without a hitch with Ubuntu 9.10. Absolutely no problems with the auto-installation of Adobe Air that Tweetdeck employs.
Am I happy in my Alternate Universe? In a word, YES!!