ClearMind Central Blog

Discussing data solutions and technology security, with occasional digressions

Mobile usage March 2012 according to Nielsen

Nielsen reports today that more than 50% of Americans use smartphones, and than Android-based phones are in the lead.  Android is at above 48%, and iPhone is at 32%.

Android software is heavily fragmented, however, and I would suspect that a demographic study of users would reveal that iPhone users are more valuable in general.

“Free” antivirus software packages

The word “free” is always dicey when you talk about computer software. Usually, free software is a loss-leader for the software company, and such software often comes bundled with stuff which tries to separate you from your money later on. And, in the worst cases, this “stuff” is spyware, which spies on you, trying to figure out how to sell you more stuff.

Nevertheless, there are some computer security companies which make available some good antivirus software, and they give it away to home users. Those companies hope to make money later, either from upgrades, or indirectly as a marketing cost leading to higher trust levels (for instance, tech people buy their software for non-home situations) I often will recommend these packages to my clients, and they work well in a pinch.

The biggest problem with these programs is that they can turn into “nagware” – that is to say, they start nagging you to buy an upgrade. AVG, for instance, used to be pretty quiet, but now (in 2008) its newest version is total nagware.

  • Avast! 4, from the Czech company Alwil. The main annoyance with this software is the yearly registration requirement, but that is no more or less annoying than some website registrations.
  • AVG Free, also from a Czech company, AVG (formerly Grisoft). — AVG has been amping up the upgrade nags quite a bit lately, so if you install this, be prepared.
  • Comodo Internet Security: — This program is a bit technical and geeky, but its latest upgrade strikes me as worthwhile.

There are a few other currently free antivirus software packages – for instance, Avira AntiVir and Eeye Blink – but I can’t say anything one way or another on those two.

LogMeIn: good stuff

Thought I’d give a shout-out to the makers of LogMeIn (, who have come up with a useful free version of a product which turns out to be more handy than my previous option (a combination of DynDNS, VNC, and fiddling with routers). In the span of 3 months, I went from not using it at all to having more than a dozen systems on it.  (It even has a Mac version, in beta, which I can use to remote-control my media-laden MacMini.)

About two years ago, I tried to get Hamachi working — that was the original project by this company, so far as I know. Frankly I was left a little baffled, and ended up using the old standby, OpenVPN.  However, compared to Hamachi-of-two-years-ago, LogMeIn is wonderfully slick.

I foresee a time when I’ll be using its Rescue, Pro, and Backup versions — there are situations appropriate for those kinds.  (Pro allows you to locally print off a remote program; Rescue lets you help people remotely without an install; Backup does what backup implies — competitor to Mozy?)  But for now, LogMeIn is good enough to keep me from exploring further VNC, PCAnywhere, Connect, Remote Desktop, SharedView, WebEx, or Glance.  In the future, those will surely become part of the mix.

Malicious website advertisements: new trends

A client of mine ran into an odd event last week: the computer seemed to be infected either with a virus or with an anti-virus program which wouldn’t shut up.

After looking at it a bit, I had to shut down the web browser, and though I couldn’t find any malware, I made sure her workspace was over at a non-admin account.

Now today, I find that reputable websites (that is, if and are reputable) are serving advertisements from doubleclick — and those ads are the culprit. This youtube video shows what happens.

What can you do? Well, we are now in the age of cross-site web programming, wherein almost all websites are assembled together on the web browser to create one’s internet experience. You have to assume that even responsible websites will be using scripts, videos, or widgets from other sites. And you also have to assume that they won’t catch everything. So: you have to practice safe browsing, now more than ever. This means one thing, above all:

Don’t browse the web when you’re using your computer in a profile or account which can make widespread changes on your machine. (These are usually called “administrative” accounts.)

If you do, well, you’ll be paying someone to clean up your machine sometime soon.

Small-to-medium business uptake of linux?,2000061733,39187298,00.htm brings up an interesting issue. Part of the topic really is a lack of management at such places. The types of tasks which need to be done in the enterprise haven’t been analyzed, and thus employees are allowed to do basically anything they want with their machines. They consequently are encouraged to rely on any old application which comes their way, and get hooked to it.

SMEs really need to have a sense of what computers will do for their enterprise. Why do they have computers, and how do they add to the bottom line of the company? That reasoning then should have impacts with employee job roles and with information technology spends, no matter how small.

If an employee truly only needs to work with a web browser and with a spreadsheet, it is ridiculous to use a Windows machine. Technology choices should then go from there.

Employees will simply learn to copy, whatever the tasks. If Mozilla and OpenOffice are given for tasks, then the employees will cope. Once that is all they use, then if they show up one day and all their data is on a server of some sort (IMAP, shared backed up server, etc.), and they can still run Mozilla and OpenOffice, then there you go.

The “gravy” (media players, chat software, etc.) really can be duplicated for free on linux without incident. Be better, in fact.

This form of thinking can apply to lowering one’s Windows spend as well. There are open source alternatives on Windows, and they should be used as much as possible. Start with OpenOffice, Thunderbird, and Firefox. Gaim if you need chat. MS Access is still handy on Windows — a MySql/OpenOffice emulation is on its way.

SCP Hints

Just a few quick speed hints for using SCP, which came my way:

The -C flag will tell SSH/SCP to compress stuff. In general I use it
all the time. CPUs are so much faster than networks still so
compression is your friend.

Depending on your platform, using the blowfish cipher should be a little
faster than using the default 3des or aes128 (don’t quote me on the
aes128 claim, they’re both pretty close).

Most people don’t realize, but you can configure all sorts of options on
a global and a per host level in your ~/.ssh/config file. This is nice
because you can force it to use a different port for certain hosts,
different ciphers, not allow password, only forward X for some hosts,

Here’s a little snippet to drop in your ~/.ssh/config that will make you
use blowfish for your cipher and compress all data going over the
network with GZip at level 6.

Host *
Compression yes
Ciphers blowfish-cbc,aes128-cbc,3des-cbc,cast128-cbc,arcfour,aes192-cbc,aes256-cbc

I’m actually a little confused about why exactly this works, as the docs
say it is only for SSH1 and not SSH2, but testing a 11 meg text file
(about 20 copies of Huckleberry Finn repeated over and over), with
compression gave me an overall throughput of 90.6K (11 megs in 1 minute,
51 seconds), without compression gave an overall throughput of 32.8K (11
megs in 4:58). Totally non-scientific, but good enough for me to
conclude that it’s doing something, especially considering that my cable
modem says that it’s current upstream rate 384000bps.

At this point, I’ll also throw in a quick plug for using mod_gzip (or
the equivalent) on your servers, especially if hosting them over a cable
modem. For simple HTML you’ll usually get compression rates of about
66% or so. Works great for my server hosted on my cable modem, keeps
the pages zippy. Most clients support this (yes, even IE supports
compression of data).