Many computer users seem confused as to what exactly their computer is running and why. If you ask some people what operating system they use their answers will vary from Windows 2010, Windows 2007, Windows Vista and even to facebook. The confusion is probably due to the naming of popular microsoft services such as Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows 7. Here we attempt to clear up the confusion by highlighting the differences.
At its most basic, an operating system is the software infrastructure that manages the computer’s hardware to make it accessible to the user and to programs. In layman’s terms, it is the initial layer of software that makes your computer useable. Your operating system lets you run the computer, manage users, install programs and edit resource management. It also gives you access to all the different hardware inside the computer.
Microsoft has designed various iterations of an operating system called Windows. There are three popular versions right now with one in development. Release dates shown:
- Windows XP (2001. Development has ceased for Windows XP)
- Windows Vista (2006)
- Windows 7 (2009)
- Windows 8 (In development)
Programs on the other hand are installed onto compatible operating systems. For example, if you own a Windows machine then you will purchase software that works on Microsoft Windows. Or, if you use a Mac, you will need to purchase software that runs on Mac OS. It is easier to imagine the difference between programs and operating systems if you consider smart phones. Your smart phone may be running the Android operating system (which is equivalent to running a Windows or Mac operating system on your computer). Then, you download apps on the market to add functionality to your phone. Those are programs.
Some popular examples of programs are skype, itunes, Microsoft Office, Norton Antivirus and Adobe Flash.
Malware Bytes is an anti-malware tool that is very popular because it is both effective and free. However, you are given the option to pay for a consumer license which will expand the abilities of the program to better safeguard your computer. Basically, the free version of Malware Bytes is an on-demand scanner. That means that it only runs when you tell it to. You cannot schedule it to run at set times or to update in the background or anything like that. It must be activated by you. Despite this limitation, the free version removes just as much malware as the paid version.
However, when it comes to computer security the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is completely true. Some infections can push your computer way past the point of even being able to run Malware Bytes to remove the offending trojans. In those cases, your free version of MB will be useless. Then again, if you opted for the paid version of the program, it would allow you to run a live scanning version of the program which would oversee and inspect all actions taken on the computer to keep you safe.
Finally, Malware Bytes is very easy to use. You will be prompted to check for updates every time you open the program and then you will reach the scanner page. Once there. you can select whether to perform a quick scan, a full scan or a flash scan (paid version only). The quick scan will check your windows folder and user files such as your application data folder where most malware roots itself nowadays. The full scan will check absolutely everything on your computer. The flash scan will check live processes
While there is no definitive answer to this question, there are some general guidelines which can help you choose the best browser for your internet experience. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: no one recommends using internet explorer. It is the most widely used browser in the world because it comes standard with your computer. However, it is also the most targeted for security vulnerabilities for exactly that reason.
Speed and ease of use are a big consideration these days. In that department, Google Chrome and Opera lead the way for sheer performance. Most other browser features have now become standard for all the major players: website speed dial, tabbed browsing and session saving come default. However, we have noticed that not all browsers render websites the same. This means that some websites might look better or run more smoothly with difference browsers. If you run into problem in one browser, try opening the website in a different browser.
Finally, we would recommend trying them all out. We prefer Google Chrome because of its speed and excellent customizability. It integrates very well with skype, the google voice addon and gmail. However, we use firefox for website analysis and development because of a larger library of tools suited for website work.
I would say that in the vast majority of virus cases you will know right away that you are infected. This is because most viruses will block your internet access by activating a proxy or by preventing executable files from being run (such as programs and malware removers). Effectively, without online resources or the recourse of running an anti-virus, most viruses will leave you unable to act against them.
Some other viruses are designed to trick you into paying the author money to remove the malware they got onto your computer. To that end, these rogue “anti-virus” programs needs to be visible for you to act on them. They pop up with a window showing a virus scan in progress which is picking up hundreds of malware items. These reports are fake and you should not act on them.
Any unexpected pop ups or strange changes to your computer will alert you to the possibility of an infection. Sometimes ads will open non-stop or your background will be changed to something silly. In more severe cases, all of your personal documents will disappear from your computer and appear to have been “deleted.”
Remember that unsolicited changes are a sure sign of some sort of problem. Unless your favorite program just received an update and is now acting up because of it, the error messages on your computer are probably accurate. Simply contact a professional to have your computer cleaned up. Always have your anti-virus running and keep your subscription active with daily updates!
The cloud is a relatively new term to describe a pretty old computer concept. Basically, “the cloud” is an easy way to describe online file storage. Imagine that you have hundreds of pictures and albums that you want to share or have easy access to. You subscribe to an online service like www.flickr.com and upload your pictures. Suddenly, you can share your photos by simply providing a link to your album. Even better, you can view and manage your files from any computer in the world (provided you have an internet connection).
While online media storage is what most people are referring to when they mention “the cloud” it should be noted that there are numerous other applications for this sort of network configuration. Cloud based computing can help businesses streamline their IT solutions by proving their employees with access to programs that aren’t locally hosted or managed. Basically, this means that a central server (or ‘the cloud’) can let a user run Microsoft Word without having to install the program on the user’s machine. This can even be used for other web applications such as online banking or e-commerce.
The advantages of cloud computing are increased efficiency, centralization and security. Every business needs to backup its data. How many times is enough? On how many mediums? How secure are the backups? To answer these questions, a business or individual would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars implementing servers and network infrastructure. Host companies that manage and offer cloud services can spread out all of these costs across their millions of customers.
Is the cloud safe and secure? Yes. It is far more secure and reliable than a home made solution. However, there are concerns over the privacy of your data and the sustainability of the host company. In light of the recent megaupload.com shutdown, it is strongly advised that you use multiple backup solutions just in case!