Thursday, December 16, 2010

Audio volume recorded by Sound Recorder is lower than in XP

Have you noticed that when you record audio through a microphone, using the Sound Recorder application in Windows 7 (or Vista), playback volume is lower than in XP using the same input volume settings? That's because the Sound Recorder now has different default settings. KB article 973446 tells you how to adjust the record volume.

The audio volume recorded by Sound Recorder in Windows Vista or in Windows 7 is lower than in Windows XP

What's new with handwriting recognition in Windows 7?

I'm most comfortable with handwriting rather than typing on a regular or touchscreen keyboard (and I don't like voice recognition because you can't do it silently). I've been waiting for Windows to get good at handwriting recognition. I had an old XP Tablet PC but it didn't quite do the job. I've been hearing that there are going to be Windows 7 Tablets coming out soon to compete with the iPad. Does Windows 7 have a Tablet version and if so, is the handwriting recognition feature improved? - Edward S.

Rather than releasing a separate Tablet PC edition, Microsoft built tablet functionality into all editions of Windows 7. To use handwriting recognition, you launch the TIP (Tablet Input Panel), where you write your text, and then it's converted to regular text. The handwriting recognition engine has been improved, and you can create personalized dictionaries. You can now can enter math expressions via the new Math Input Panel (MIP). The math expression is converted and can be sent directly to a spreadsheet or other application. When you use the onscreen soft keyboard, text prediction, which is based on the words you frequently enter, has been enhanced. Finally, support for more languages has been added. Find out more about that here:

What's New in Handwriting Recognition

Safer surfing with SmartScreen

The SmartScreen Filter is a feature in Internet Explorer 8 that helps you avoid socially engineered malware phishing websites and online fraud when you browse the web. The SmartScreen Filter checks websites against a dynamically updated list of reported phishing and malware sites, checks software downloads against a dynamically updated list of reported malicious software sites and helps prevent you from visiting phishing websites and other websites that contain malware that can lead to identity theft. Find out more about the SmartScreen filter and how to report phishing web sites here:

Surfing with SmartScreen

How to fix a problem where Windows Live Photo Gallery freezes up or won't start

Windows Live Photo Gallery is a handy free photo editing program, but several readers have reported a problem whereby the application either won't start at all, or freezes up and stops working after you open it. This happens when the database that's created by WLPG gets corrupted. Here's what you can do to fix it.
1. First be sure to back up pictures you have saved in WLPG.
2. Close Windows Live Photo Gallery.
3. Click Start and in the Search box, type %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live Photo Gallery
4. Click OK.
5. Look for the files OLD_pictures.pd4 and OLD_Pictures.pd5. Delete these.
6. Locate files called Pictures.pd4 and Pictures.pd5 and rename them to OLD_Pictures.pd4 and OLD_Pictures.pd5
7. Restart Windows Live Photo Gallery. The database will be regenerated and this should fix the problem.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Can I get rid of the "Scan and Fix" pop-up?


Whenever I plug in my USB stick, Windows 7 wants to "scan and fix" it. I get a pop-up box saying "Do you want to scan and fix removable drive (J)?" I don't, and I always click "Continue without scanning." I've never had a problem with the drive but it always wants to do this. Can I get rid of it permanently?

The dialog box appears when Windows detects problems with the drive's file system or if you didn't dismount the drive (using the "safely remove hardware" function) when you took it out of the computer or reader. You can indeed disable this - but if you do, you'll also lose the Autoplay function, which pops up the box asking what you want to do when you insert a removable drive (for example, for graphics files, you're asked if you want to import the pictures, copy them to your computer and view them, just open the folder, or use the drive to speed up your system with ReadyBoost. That means you'll need to manually open Explorer and navigate to the drive to access its files.

If you don't mind that (or if Autoplay annoys you too and you'd love to get rid of it), here's how:

1. Log on as administrator.

2. Click Start and in the Search box, type msconfig

3. Click the Services tab.

4. Scroll down and find Shell Hardware Detection.

5. Uncheck the box.

6. Restart the computer.

How to add Google Docs shortcut to Windows 7 desktop

If you're a Google Documents user, you know that it takes several steps to create a new document. However, you can create a shortcut icon or a shortcut key combo in Windows 7 that will let you create a new document in a single click. Here's how:

1. Click an empty space on your Windows 7 desktop.

2. Select New | Shortcut.

3. In the dialog box, type in the following URL:

4. Assign a shortcut key combination that's not already in use. You can also create shortcuts to create new spreadsheets or presentations, using the following URLs:

These work for the standard Google Docs service. If you use Google Apps, you'll need to include your domain and you'll probably want to use SSL for security (https). For example:

Another Good Reminder of Why You Should be Careful with Facebook Applications

Scammers never stop looking for an angle to trick you into installing rogue applications and using you to help spread them to other people. The latest one to hit Facebook teases people with the possibility of seeing who has been viewing their profiles.

This is the message that people are seeing in relation to the rogue application:

OMG OMG OMG… I cant believe this actually works! Now you really can see who viewed your profile! on [Link]

Now you may be wondering how successful this particular rogue application has been. Picture this in your mind…

From the blog post: Ever wondered how many people fall for a scam like this? Well, the figures can be shocking. This current campaign is using a variety of different links – but via we can see that at least one of them has already tricked nearly 60,000 people into clicking.

The chance to know who has been looking at your profile can be really tempting and that is exactly how the scammers get to people. What better method to use than promising something that so many people want? If you do decide to install an application make certain that it is trustworthy. Remember the old saying about something “Sounding too good to be true…”

For full details about this latest rogue application be sure to read through the full blog post linked below. And if you know someone who tends to be careless with Facebook applications then send them the link!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can't install updates and "Windows Features" dialog box is empty

If you get an error message when you attempt to install updates from the Windows Update web site, and you also find the "Windows Features" dialog box empty when you try to turn Windows features on or off through the Programs and Features applet in Control Panel, you need to check out KB article 931712, which offers a couple of ways to resolve the problem.

The "Windows Features" dialog box is empty in Windows 7 or Windows Vista, or you receive error code "0x80073712" when you try to use Windows Update

What happened to my picture thumbnails?

I have an odd problem that I've never encountered before. Suddenly all of the folders in my Pictures library have the same thumbnail image for all of them. How do I get them back to normal?

This happens when the cache file where the preview thumbnails are stored becomes corrupt. You can usually use the Disk Cleanup tool to fix the problem. Click Start and type "Disk cleanup" in the search box, then click on it in the Programs displayed. Now be sure "Thumbnails" is checked in the list of "files to delete" and click the "Clean up system files" button. Log off and then log back on. Windows should create a new cache file and the problem should be fixed.

Beware of scareware

Once again, scareware authors are spoofing the security warnings of popular web browser, to trick users into downloading phony security software that then nags you to pay for the program. Just refusing the updates may not work, either, since those who refuse get hit with attack code for common vulnerabilities. This is yet another reason to be sure you keep your computer's security patches up to date. Read more here:

Fake browser warnings dupe users into downloading 'scareware'

How to permanently display the menu bar in IE 9

1. As always, be sure to back up the registry before making changes.
2. Log on as an administrator.
3. Close all instances of IE.
4. Open the registry editor and navigate to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Policies \ Microsoft
5. In the right pane, right click and select New, then Key.
6. Name the new key Internet Explorer.
7. In the Internet Explorer key, create a new subkey and name it Main
8. Now you should be in the following path: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Policies \ Microsoft
\ Internet Explorer \ Main
9. In the right pane, right click and select New and then DWORD Value
10. Name the new value AlwaysShowMenus
11. Double click the new value and in the value data field, enter 1
12. Click OK
13. Close the registry editor and open IE9

If you don't see the menu bar, press ALT to display it. Now it should be there every time you open IE.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stop Windows Update from Automatically Restarting Your PC

If you like to keep your applications open and running on your screen, you’ve probably come back to your PC and noticed that Windows Update had rebooted you, losing everything that was open on your screen. Sure, you can temporarily disable the automatic reboot if you happen to be sitting in front of the PC, but what happens when you were away when it popped up?

That’s not the only annoyance, but you can stop Windows Update from hijacking the sleep button if you need to:

As an avid user of the Sleep function on my laptop, I’ve been more than irritated with Windows 7 or Vista’s habit of changing the Sleep/Shutdown button into an “Install Updates and Shut Down” button whenever there are updates from Windows Update.

After the last time I accidentally clicked this stupid button when I just wanted to enter sleep mode, I decided to look for a solution:

Download Registry Hack

Unzip the file and double-click on the StopHijackingMySleepButton.reg file to activate the registry hack. You shouldn’t have to restart anything, as the changes will happen immediately. There’s also a registry file to uninstall the hack.
I believe there is a similar option for XP, but I’m guessing the key is located in a different place.

Download StopHijackingMySleepButton Registry Hack

Prevent Windows Update from Forcibly Rebooting Your Computer:

We’ve all been at our computer when the Windows Update dialog pops up and tells us to reboot our computer. I’ve become convinced that this dialog has been designed to detect when we are most busy and only prompt us at that moment.

The real problem comes into play when Windows gets tired of reminding us and says that the computer is going to reboot in 5 minutes, and the only way you can prevent the inevitable is to temporarily disable Windows Update.

There’s a couple of ways that we can disable this behavior, however. You’ll still get the prompt, but it won’t force you to shut down.

I don’t believe this trick will work for XP Home or Vista Home users, according to the documentation that I’ve read. You’ll have to resort to the temporary disabling measuresinstead.

Downloadable Registry Hack

Just download and extract the registry hack files and double-click on WUNoAutoReboot.reg to disable automatic reboots. The other script will remove the hack.

Download WUNoAutoReboot Registry Hack

How to Stop Windows from Shutting Down or Rebooting:

If you’ve ever accidentally triggered a system shutdown and then suddenly changed your mind, here’s the simple trick to tell Windows to abort the shutdown and let you get back to goofing off.

So there you are, minding your own business and wasting time on Facebook, when Windows pops up a message telling you that you need to reboot right now… and you accidentally choose Restart now.

To prevent Windows from shutting down on you, just type in shutdown /a into the Start menu search box, and then use the Ctrl+Shift+Enter shortcut key combination to run the command as administrator—of course, if you’ve already disabled UAC you can just hit the Enter key.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Microsoft Going Too Far to Protect Us?

It's a fine line to walk for an operating system vendor. If your OS is compromised by viruses or malware, it's called insecure and you get the blame. But if you build too much security into the operating system, you're called over-controlling and you might even get slapped with an anti-trust lawsuit. How far is too far to go in pushing your own particular brand of protection onto your users?

In the olden days (MS DOS), the OS was basically just an OS. If you wanted to actually do anything with it, you had to install applications. Windows (which in its first incarnations wasn't an OS at all, but a shell that ran on top of MS DOS) added more and more basic built in applications - simple word processor, calculator, games, communications apps, etc. It was the inclusion of the Internet Explorer web browser that really raised the hackles of third party software vendors and resulted in anti-trust suits in the U.S. and the Europe Union. Later the same issues were raised over the inclusion of Windows Media Player.

By the time we got to Windows XP, there were all sorts of apps included - even a rudimentary firewall - but one category of software that you still had to buy separately was anti-virus and anti-malware software. Microsoft started moving in that direction when they included Windows Defender, an anti-spyware product, in Vista and Windows 7. Meanwhile, in 2009 they released Microsoft Security Essentials, a free anti-virus program that could be downloaded from the Microsoft web site for XP, Vista and Windows 7. But the user still had to seek it out and install it.

Now that's about to change. Well, sort of. Microsoft has announced that they will begin delivering Security Essentials through the Microsoft Update service. That got some folks upset, thinking they were going to have Microsoft's anti-virus forced on them whether they wanted it or not. The good news is that Security Essentials will only pop up as an optional update. You'll still have to check the box if you want to accept and install it. And it will only show up there if Windows detects that you aren't currently running another anti-virus program. So if you have your own favorite anti-virus, as so many of us do, you should never even see it as an option.

There may be some cases where your anti-virus doesn't communicate with Windows and so isn't detected, but again, it will only be offered as an option and you don't have to accept it. Given those conditions, the intent seems pretty obvious: to prod those who are running unprotected systems into installing an anti-virus solution. However, some see this as only the first step toward including anti-virus in Windows, just as anti-spyware and the firewall are now included. Some view that end as a good thing, others as not so good. Ed Bott sees it as another potential anti-trust suit:
Microsoft tempts antitrust lawyers with expanded antivirus offering

The free security software that Microsoft offers is pretty basic, and those "in the know" generally buy and install more full featured products, but does the average consumer know (or care about) the difference? You can argue that, regardless of whether there is an anti-virus program bundled with the OS, users are always free to disable it and install one of their own choosing. On the other hand, many people are basically lazy, and/or want to save money, and so will stick with the built-in solution. Will this pose a threat to vendors of other anti-virus products?

I think the key is for those vendors to show how their products are better. If users can see what the differences are, and see the value that makes it worth paying a little extra and taking a little time to install and configure, they'll do it - just as many users make the extra effort to download and install Firefox or Chrome or some other alternate web browser even though Internet Explorer comes with Windows.

Tell us what you think. Does offering a free anti-virus solution through Microsoft Update - even if it's only offered on systems where another AV program isn't detected - give Microsoft an unfair advantage in that space? What if they started bundling their AV program with the operating system? Should that be allowed (as long as you can easily disable it and install a different one) or does that create an anti-trust situation? Some think Microsoft should be required to include free AV and other security software as part of the OS; how do you feel about that? Will the next version of Windows have AV bundled with it? Could that threat of another anti-trust suit be the big risk that Steve B. was referring to in relation to Windows 8? I don't think so, but it makes for an interesting question. We invite you to discuss this topic...

Win 7 News

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Connectivity and/or performance issues with certain wireless hot spots

If you find that you get poor performance, or the network connection is dropped altogether when you connect to certain wi-fi hot spots with your Vista or Windows 7 computer, this may be because the wireless access point or router does not support 802.11 power save protocol. There are a couple of methods you can use to work around the issue. Find out about them in KB article 928152 at

Can't connect to the Internet anymore

I have a Windows 7 computer that could connect to the Internet fine before. Now suddenly I can't get online with it. I have to use my old XP computer to get online. So it's obviously not a problem with my ISP since the XP computer still works. What can I do?

Always start troubleshooting at the hardware level. Make sure your network cable is connected (and try swapping it out for a different Ethernet cable) or if you're using wi-fi, make sure wireless is turned on. Many times I've seen people forget to reenable wi-fi after disabling it on a plane and then think there was something wrong with the computer.

If all that checks out, run the built in network troubleshooter in Windows 7. This article tells you how:

If that doesn't work, try booting the computer in safe mode with networking, and/or try booting without loading third party applications (clean boot mode). You can find out more about that here:

Why Do So Many Geeks Hate Internet Explorer?

It’s common knowledge that almost every single geek hates Internet Explorer with a passion, but have you ever wondered why? Let’s take a fair look at the history and where it all began… for posterity, if nothing else.

Contrary to what you might think, this article is not meant to be a hate-fest on Internet Explorer—in fact, we’re pretty impressed with the hardware acceleration and new features in Internet Explorer 9—but keep reading for the whole story.

In the Beginning There Was IE, and It Was Good?

We’ve all been so used to thinking of Internet Explorer as that slow, buggy browser that is behind the times, but it wasn’t always that way—in fact, way back when, Internet Explorer pioneered many innovations that made the web what it is today.

Here’s a quick tour through the easily forgotten history of the infamous browser:

1996: Internet Explorer 3

This version of the browser, introduced in 1997, was the first browser to implement CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Yes, you’re reading that correctly—in fact, it introduced many new features like Java applets and sadly, ActiveX controls.

1997: Internet Explorer 4

IE4 introduced a blazing fast (at the time) rendering engine as an embeddable component that could be used in other applications—this was a lot more important than people realize. This version also introduced Dynamic HTML, which allows web pages to dynamically change the page using JavaScript, and added Active Desktop integration.

Even more weird? Seems like nobody remembers this anymore, but IE4 was actually cross-platform—you could install it on Mac OS, Solaris, and HP-UX—and by the time IE5 was released, IE4 had reached a 60% market share.

1999: Internet Explorer 5.x

Microsoft invented Ajax. Wait… what? That’s right, it was this version of IE that introduced the XMLHttpRequest feature in JavaScript, which forms the underlying technology behind every web application you’re using today—you know, like Gmail. Of course, the term “Ajax” wasn’t actually coined until years later by somebody other than Microsoft, but this release supported everything required to make it work.

So Yes, Microsoft Innovated

From IE3 until IE6, Microsoft used all their resources to simply out-innovate the competition, releasing new features and better browsers faster than Netscape. In fact, Netscape 3 Gold was a buggy piece of junk that crashed all the time, and Netscape 4 was extremely slow and could barely render tables—much less CSS, which would often cause the browser to crash.

To put it in context: web developers used to complain about Netscape the same way they complain about IE6 now.

What Made It Go So Very Wrong?

The trouble all started when Microsoft integrated IE into Windows as a required component, and made it difficult to uninstall and use an alternate browser. Then there was the whole business with them exploiting their monopoly to try and push Netscape out of the market, and a lot of people started to view Microsoft as the evil empire.

Microsoft Stopped Trying

By the time Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6 in 2001, complete with lots of new features for web developers, since there was no competition and they had a 95% market share, Microsoft just stopped trying—seriously, they did nothing for 5 years even after Firefox was released and geeks started migrating left and right.

Microsoft-Specific Features

The whole problem with Microsoft’s innovation is that much of it was done in ways that didn’t follow the web standards—this wasn’t as big of a problem when Internet Explorer was the only game in town, but once Firefox and Webkit came around and started following the standards correctly, suddenly it became a huge problem for web developers.

Security Holes and Crashing

Since Microsoft decided they didn’t need to try anymore, and they didn’t keep up with the competition from Firefox and other browsers, bugs and security holes just cropped up left and right—really terrible ones, too. For instance, this code is all that is required to crash IE6:

IE7 and IE8 Were Too Little, Too Late

It took 5 years after IE6 for Microsoft to finally get around to releasing IE7, which added tabs and made the browser slightly more tolerable, but for web designers it was still a nightmare to deal with, and only complicated the issue since now you had to make pages render correctly in two lousy browsers instead of just one.

It took another 2.5 years for Microsoft to finally release Internet Explorer 8, which greatly improved CSS support for web developers, and added new features like Private browsing, tab isolation to prevent one bad page from taking down the whole browser, and phishing protection. By this point, most geeks had already moved on to Firefox, and then some of us to Google Chrome.

Here’s the Real Reason Geeks Hate IE

Just because we’re geeks doesn’t mean we hate everything that’s inferior and outdated—in fact, we often love retro computing—that’s why we love Atari, NES, Commodore 64, etc. We take pride in our geek knowledge. So why’s Internet Explorer a different story?

Here’s a couple of reasons that fueled our hatred of the buggy browser, and finally put us all over the edge:

Supporting IE is Like a Fork in the Eye for Web Devs

Here’s a sample of a day in the life of a web designer: You spend hours making sure that your page looks great, and you test it out in Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and even Opera. It looks great, awesome!

Now you open up IE and the page looks like somebody put it into a blender and hit the Whip button. Then you spend double the amount of time trying to fix it to look tolerable in IE6 and IE7, cursing loudly the entire time.

Geeks Forced to Use Internet Explorer

And here’s where we come to the real issue—the whole reason that geeks can’t stand Internet Explorer:

Geeks everywhere were forced to use Internet Explorer at work even when there are better browsers, forced to support it for corporate applications, forced to make sure web sites still work in IE, and we couldn’t convince everybody to switch to a better browser.

Geeks don’t hate something that’s inferior—but they do hate it when it’s forced on them.

The Good News: The Future Might Be Brighter

Thankfully it seems like Microsoft has finally learned from their many, many mistakes in the browser world. They are below 50% in the market share wars, and they’ve finally learned to focus on using web standards.

Internet Explorer 9 is about to be released, it’s got a shiny new interface that looks a lot like Google Chrome, blazing fast hardware acceleration, and supports HTML5 surprisingly well—in fact, it’s so much better that 34% of our readers said they will switch to IE9.

Microsoft is billing Internet Explorer 9 as the browser that’s going to change the world, and they aren’t wrong—they just aren’t mentioning that they were the only ones holding the web back with their anemic browsers. And now that mess is finally over.

Make Microsoft Word Always Use Plain Text for Pasted Text

Are you tired of pasting text into Word, only to find that the pasted text included colors, formatting, links, and more from its original source? Here’s how you can keep pasted text from messing up your documents. By default, Word will keep the formatting of text and other content you past into a document, including links, colors, size, font, and more. This can be annoying at best and at worst, can mess up the other formatting in your document.

If you copied a large amount of text or images from a site, or if your internet connection happens to be slow, Word may even freeze temporarily while it’s retrieving and pasting the content. That’s no fun.

Word does have one saving feature: you can click the little popup under pasted text and select Plain Text to get just the text and none of the formatting. However, that’s 2 extra clicks. If you just want to paste the text, and nothing else, you’ll want to change the default setting. Thankfully, it’s easy. If you just pasted text, just click the popup and select Set Default Paste.

Alternately, open the Options pane in Word manually from the File backstage menu or the Office orb in Word 2007.
Select the Advanced tab, then scroll down to the Cut, copy, and paste settings section.
Here you can change a wide variety of pasting options. To switch to pasting text only by default, select Keep Text Only in the drop-down menus. You can change the settings for all options, or just change the ones you wish. We often want to keep the formatting if we’re pasting within the same document, so we left the first option at default, then switched all the others to Keep Text Only.

Once you’ve changed the settings, try pasting some text to make sure it works right. Now it should just paste the text, even if your paste included an image, link, or other text formatting. This is great for the default setting, and makes everything much quicker.

Or, if you decide you want to include the formatting, links, or other content from the paste, just click the popup and select Keep Source Formatting. This way, you’ll only have to click extra if you need the extra content.

Now you can save time and get just the text you want from websites, other programs, and more without waiting for a large paste and taking the time to tweak it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What to Do If Hackers Steal Your Online Accounts

Has your Web-mail or social-network account been hijacked? Join the (miserable) club.

Stolen accounts—caused by aggressive phishing attacks and distribution of malicious programs to collect passwords—have become a plague upon the Web. Spammers want them so their messages can get past spam filters. And crooks, who often lock out the true owners by changing their passwords, use them to find and get inside financial accounts or to impersonate the owners and weasel money out of their friends.

“This is big business. There’s billions of dollars at stake,” says Dan Lewis, senior project manger for Windows Live Hotmail at Microsoft. “There are some really smart criminal organizations doing this.”

It’s not hard to recover an account that a reprobate is co-habiting with you: Simply change your password to lock them out (and scan your PC for malware that might steal your new password). But it’s trickier if someone has taken over your account entirely or the site has temporarily shut you out because they believe your account is compromised. Many people describe long and painful processes to get their accounts back. There’s no phone number to call or human to speak to. You click and hope for the best.

The most common roadblock to a quick recovery is proving you are the real account owner, the sites say. Service providers consider the worst outcome to be handing an account to the wrong person. So if you can’t prove it’s yours – maddening as that may be – you will have no choice but to start all over with a new account. Here’s what to do if one of your online accounts is compromised.


Last week, Microsoft quietly undertook an effort to clean out hijackers from Hotmail en masse. It displayed a warning message to people whose accounts it suspected were compromised and required them to reset their passwords, using a method that would be difficult for a scammer’s automated systems to operate. Mr. Lewis said less than 1 percent of accounts were part of the surprise purge—which is nevertheless a big number of accounts, considering Hotmail maintains an estimated 360 million of them.

Account owners had to prove their identities by obtaining a code via an alternate e-mail address, by answering a secret question or supplying other personal information. If an account owner was not able to regain gain access using an automated process, they could get help from Hotmail’s online support staff to validate themselves and reset their passwords. Users who can prove they’re the legitimate owner will get access within 24 hours, according to Hotmail.

In a second phase, Hotmail on Monday rolled out features to make account recovery easier in the future. It’s asking users to supply cellphone numbers where Hotmail can text them with an extra security code and to identify the devices they use to access Hotmail—their “trusted PCs”—to help the service know it’s them logging into the account.


If you’re locked out of your Gmail account, click on “Can’t access your account?” at the bottom of the main Gmail sign-in page and on the help page and click the circle beside “My account has been compromised.” Google will ask for secondary e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers you have supplied previously to validate you are you. If you haven’t provided this information, you’ll be asked to fill out a form with a set of questions designed to verify you are the real Google account owner.

Gmail may show a warning if it suspects your account is being used by someone else and will help you reset your password. And it is increasingly prompting users to provide or update alternate contact information that can speed recovery should you get hacked.

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo Mail users whose accounts have been taken over should visit Yahoo’s help page and click “Security” in the box listing popular Yahoo services. From there, click the “Contact Us” tab at the top and send Yahoo a message using the form at the bottom of the page. An online customer-care agent will help you from there.


If your Facebook account has been hijacked or suspended, visit this help page and submit a report. If the e-mail address tied to your account is in your hands, it will be fairly easy to change your Facebook password and regain your account, Facebook says.

But if your e-mail account has been hacked or your nemesis has changed the e-mail address tied to your Facebook account, you will have to verify your identity by answering certain questions before you can set up a new password and get your account back. (Then avail yourself of new Facebook security features that can help prevent account takeover.)


Twitter users who notice tweets and direct messages from their account that they didn’t send or are following new people they didn’t select should go here and follow the directions to change their password and disconnect from Twitter apps they don’t recognize or trust, which could be the culprits.

If you can’t log in at all, you will need to ask Twitter to send a new password to the e-mail address associated with your account.

Andrew Stephens, of Cirencester in Britain, who is @drhappymac on Twitter, had his account hijacked last week, which was then used to send spammy tweets. Twitter quickly suspended his account, and four days later he got it back. “All in all, I was surprised at just how effective Twitter’s response was. They had my account locked down within minutes and back in my control pretty much as soon as you might reasonably expect,” he says.

If your e-mail address was hacked too, you will need to recover that first and then request a new Twitter password. If you can’t get your e-mail account back or continue to have problems, send Twitter an SOS using this form.

Losing access to accounts like these can be awful. Earlier this month, Jonathan Roniger, a musician in Nashville, was frozen out of Facebook and two e-mail accounts by hackers, who contacted his friends and asked for $1,800, claiming to be destitute in London after getting mugged while on a last-minute vacation. At least one well-meaning friend wired money not once, but twice.

Mr. Roniger wrested control of his Gmail account two days after it was hijacked, only to get locked out again by the hackers. After getting back in, he shut down the account altogether and opened a new one. He still hasn’t regained his Facebook account, which is suspended while he pulls together documents and photos to prove his identity. Mr. Roniger says a well-connected friend got Facebook to lock down the account and “stop the madness,” when he couldn’t figure out how to get it shut down himself. (He could have gone here.)

This Week's Top 10 Spyware Threats

One of them, My Freeze / YourScreen, is a website which contains many screen savers , this site also bundled with many adwares such as, Save now etc.

Just to clarify, an Adware Bundler is a downloadable program that is typically "freeware" because it is bundled with advertising software -- adware. The adware may function independently of the bundler program, but in some cases the bundler program will not function if the adware is removed, or will not install unless the adware is installed. Most Adware Bundlers install several adware applications from multiple adware vendors, each of which is governed by a separate End User License Agreement (EULA) and Privacy Policy. Some Adware Bundlers may not fully and properly disclose the presence of bundled advertising software during installation.

We do consider that this is low risk and should not harm your machine or compromise your privacy and security unless they have been installed without your knowledge and consent. A low risk may be a program, network tool, or system utility that you knowingly and deliberately installed and that you wish to keep. Although some low risk programs may track online habits -- as provided for in a privacy policy or End User License Agreement (EULA) -- or display advertising within the applications themselves, these programs have only vague, minimal or negligible effects on your privacy. Low risks may also be cookies, which can be used to track your online activities, though without identifying you personally. But you should be aware that by downloading a screen saver from this site will also install a toolbar, many shortcuts on to your desktop, and adwares products from Not sure why you would want to do that.

The other newbie to our list from Pinball Corporation is also adware but we consider it to be a much riskier proposition and features and elevated threat. Elevated risks are typically installed without adequate notice and consent, and may make unwanted changes to your system, such as reconfiguring your browser's homepage and search settings. These risks may install advertising- related add-ons, including toolbars and search bars, or insert advertising- related components. These new add-ons and components may block or redirect your preferred network connections, and can negatively impact your computer's performance and stability. Elevated risks may also collect, transmit, and share potentially sensitive data without adequate notice and consent. In short if you come across it, do not download it and if you have by all means get rid of it!

Trojan.Win32.Generic!BT: Trojan
Trojan-Spy.Win32.Zbot.gen: Trojan
Trojan.Win32.Generic!SB.0: Trojan
Trojan.Win32.Generic.pak!cobra: Trojan
Worm.Win32.Downad.Gen (v): Worm.W32
INF.Autorun (v): Trojan
Trojan.Win32.Bamital.c (v): Trojan
Pinball Corporation. (v): Adware (General)
My Freeze/YourScreen: Adware Bundler
Zugo Ltd (v): Toolbar

Stay on top of all the real-time threats:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How To Make Your Windows 7 System Even Faster

by Andre on October 13, 2010

One of the things you might encounter after upgrading your computer or starting a new computer for the first time is the amount of stuff that might make the operating system start a little groggy at first. This article will show you some of the common tasks you can do to speed up that old computer or squeeze as much performance as possible out of that new PC.

If you are using an old computer, there are some things you should take into account if you are upgrading to Windows 7. First off, you will need to make sure your computer meets the Windows 7 System Requirements and second, you should be aware that housecleaning may not be enough to speed up an old computer. Instead a hardware upgrade of components might just be what you need to achieve better performance.

The first three things that come to mind are Memory, Processor and Storage. These three components can add a dramatic improvement to your computers performance. One of the great things about running Windows 7 is the memory foot print is about the same as Windows Vista and its more efficient because of a lot of complex low-level changes the Windows Team made to the operating system with how it loads programs, services and devices.

Anyway, if you do upgrade to Windows 7, here are few things you can do to speed things up even more:

Disk Cleanup – This is always a favorite place to start, because it list many of the common locations where old unused files that are often not needed any more are stored. To find Disk Cleanup, click Start, type: Disk Cleanup. Alternatively, you can find it under Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools. When Disk Cleanup is started, you are prompted to select the drive on which you would like to do the cleanup. In this case, it’s the operating system drive where Windows 7 is installed, usually C:\. If you are running Windows 7 in a dual-boot configuration with another operating system, click in the list box and select the drive on which it is installed. Click OK

Disk Cleanup dialog

An initialization wizard will scan you hard disk to check for areas of the system you will be able to run the clean up on. After the scanning is complete, the Disk Cleanup dialog appears. This window provides a list of areas of the system you can clean up safely. The most common locations are Temporary files, Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin to name a few. Other not so common locations include the Thumbnail Cache which stores previews of your images allowing you load them faster when you open the Pictures Library or Windows Live Photo Gallery. This I do not recommend you delete for obvious purposes. Lets dig a little deeper. Disk Cleanup provides a list of areas where you can free up disk space and gain additional speed in some cases.

Downloaded Program Files
Downloaded Program Files are ActiveX controls and Java applets downloaded automatically from the Internet when you view certain pages. They are temporarily stored in the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk. SAFE TO DELETE - YES

Temporary Internet Files
The Temporary Internet Files folder contains webpages stored on your hard disk for quick viewing. Your personalized settings for webpages will be left intact. Personally, I suggest you keep this if you are on a slow connection and need the basic elements of web pages you often visit to load faster. Keep It

Offline Webpages
Offline pages are webpages that are stored on your computer so you can view them without being connected to the Internet. If you delete these pages now, you can still view your favorites offline later by synchronizing them. Your personalized settings for webpages will be left intact. I also recommend you leave this alone since you might be on a slow connection and need quick access to a webpage with some specific content. Keep It

Recycle Bin
The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your computer. These files are not permanently removed until you empty the Recycle Bin. Sometimes you might inadvertently delete a file that you didn’t intend to delete permanently, so before you empty the contents of the Recycle Bin, do a thorough check before. SAFE TO DELETE - YES

Temporary files
Programs sometimes store temporary information in the TEMP folder. Before a program closes., it usually deletes this information. You can safely delete files that have not been modified in over a week. You can view the contents of the temp directory and see if there is anything in there you might need. Open the Run Command (Windows key + R), type in %temp% > hit OK. Sometimes program installers for common applets are stored there that you can use to reinstall such as Adobe Flash for instance if you don’t want to redownload it every time. SAFE TO DELETE - YES

Windows keeps a copy of all your picture, video, and document thumbnails so they can be displayed quickly when you open a folder. If you delete these thumbnails, they will be automatically recreated as needed. I don’t see any problems deleting it if its gonna be recreated, but deleting it sometimes can correct problems with previews of photos and videos. SAFE TO DELETE - YES

Debug Dump Files
When your computer experiences a system hang because of a poorly written application or device driver, Windows intelligently creates a log of what happened. This log can be used along with other logs such as System error memory dump files to help diagnose the problem when sent to Microsoft or the developer for review. Keep It

System error memory dump files
Similar to the Debug Dump files, memory error dumps happen when poorly written drivers or applications crash. It is very handy for utilities built into Windows such as Troubleshooters which help in diagnosing problems that occur in Windows. Keep It

In addition to these common locations, Windows will also store information related to Error reporting and solution checking, leave these for diagnosis that can help resolve issues with applications or devices. Also, if you do an upgrade from Windows Vista or clean install, Windows 7 might store information related to servicing which are logs used to assist the installation of the operating system. Once you have checked these locations for clean up, click the OK button and these locations will be cleaned out.

A folder you might be familiar with is the Windows.old, in a future article I will be taking a closer look at this directory. It’s basically a backup of your old installation of Windows, which you can use to reinstall Windows if you decide to return to your previous installation. Also, it’s used as a last resort in case you didn’t backup your files and need to recover personal files and settings. The Windows.old folder can use up a considerable amount of your hard disk space and reduce the systems performance. It’s normally stored at the root of your hard disk where Windows 7 is installed. Before you delete it, make sure you check through the directories and ensure that everything migrated successfully to Windows 7

System Restore – The Windows Team has added some nice enhancements to Windows 7′s System Restore feature, allowing you to keep a larger collection of System Restore Points in addition to storing them in your System Images of Windows 7. A friend had recently upgraded to Windows 7 and he asked me why he was low on hard disk space. He had a 320 GB drive and only had about 70 GBs of free disk space left after doing a disk cleanup. It was then I discovered that System Protection had been configured to use about 200 GBs of disk space to keep System Restore Points.

Configuring System Protection settings

To configure System Protection, click Start, type: System Protection, hit Enter. Under Protection Settings, click the Configure button. A dialog will appear with various settings for configuring Restoration and Disk space usage. Under the Disk space usage tab, you will see the current amount of space in use by System Restore while the Max usage displays the amount allocated. Use the Max usage knob to configure how much disk space you want to allocate to System Protection. In the above screenshot, you will see that I am using 21.05 GBs for Restore Points, while I have allocated 22.36 GBs of disk space for System Protection. You also have the option of deleting all Restore Points which stores System settings and previous versions of files. I suggest you leave this, since you will be able to individually restore changes to files you are working on. For instance, if you edited an image and would like to restore it to a previous version or original version of the file, you could do it so long as you don’t delete these restore points.


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What is Cloud Computing and What Does This Stupid Buzzword Mean?

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the definition for “Cloud Computing” is this incomprehensible piece of nonsense clearly written to be as confusing as possible:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

So what’s a definition for real people?

Cloud Computing = Web Applications

That’s all there is to it. If you’re using a web or internet-based application from a major provider like Google or Microsoft, you’re using cloud computing. Congrats!

Every web application that you’ve ever used, like Gmail, Google Calendar, Hotmail, SalesForce, Dropbox, and Google Docs, are based on “cloud computing”, because when you connect to one of these services, you’re really connecting to a massive pool of servers somewhere out there on the internet. The client doesn’t need to be a web browser, but that’s the direction everything is heading.

So Why Cloud Computing?

We’ve already established that it’s a pointless term that simply describes web applications, which have been around for a very long time—but in order to get businesses to start switching to web applications instead of self-hosted servers, the marketing types invented a new buzzword.

The reason why they used the word “cloud” in the buzzword is simple: in network diagrams, the internet is usually represented with a cloud in the middle of the drawing. Those marketing drones are inventive, aren’t they?

So basically the term itself is just a way for consultants and companies to sell more services in a shiny new package.

How Can Cloud Computing Help Me?

Since businesses everywhere are moving their applications to the web and coming out with new and interesting features accessible through your web browser, you’ll soon be able to access virtually anything from any browser on any PC, and the lines will blur between desktop and the internet.

Now that Microsoft has finally released the beta for Internet Explorer 9, which supports new web standards like HTML5 and uses hardware acceleration to make the whole experience speedy—every browser will finally be on the same footing. When Microsoft said that IE9 is going to change the web, they weren’t kidding—they were the only ones holding the web back with their anemic IE7 and IE8 browsers, not to mention the ancient IE6. And now the nightmare is finally almost over.

It’ll get even more interesting whenever Chrome OS is finally released, which is basically an entire operating system built around a web browser as the primary interface, with all of your applications as web applications instead of local—hopefully it will support web integration like IE9 does with the Windows 7 taskbar.

How Is Cloud Computing Different for Businesses?

If you’re in the IT world you’re probably scratching your head at this point and thinking that I’m oversimplifying the idea behind cloud computing, so let’s explain the real difference from the more technical side of things.

In the past, every company would run all of their applications on all of their own servers, hosted at their own location or data center. This obviously requires a lot of maintenance and money to keep everything running, upgraded, and secure.

From a business perspective, businesses can now move much of their computing to cloud services, which provide the same applications that you would install on your own servers, but now they are accessible over the internet for any of their customers. Have you read about companies switching to Google Docs? That’s a perfect example of companies switching from hosting their own local servers to using cloud computing instead.

But what if your company provides a service to others? You can also take advantage of cloud computing by creating applications that don’t run on your own servers, but actually utilize server resources provided by one of the big providers—Google has App Engine, Microsoft has Windows Azure, and Amazon has their EC2 framework.

Most of these services operate on a pay-for-resources basis—so your application only gets charged for the amount of CPU and network use that it actually uses—when your application is small and doesn’t have a lot of users, you don’t get charged much, but the benefit is that it can scale up to 10,000 users without any trouble (though you’ll be paying a lot more for the added CPU usage).

Web Applications are the future. Cloud Computing is a stupid buzzword.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Most Dangerous Gaming Sites on the Web

By: Sean Carroll

Online gaming is huge, and cybercriminals go where the money is—to steal it. Which gaming sites should you avoid, and how can you game safely?

"As the gaming industry continues to grow, hackers will inevitably develop more ways to target this massive group," said Ondrej Vlcek, chief technical officer of Czech security company Avast, makers of avast! Internet Security 5.0 and avast! Free Antivirus. Avast continually gathers data about infected sites, publishing a monthly Most Wanted List to highlight the worst sites in a given portion of the Web. For October, Avast has sliced its data to reveal the riskiest gaming sites on the Web, to warn customers and raise awareness of the threat. Avast's worst offenders, as of October 6, 2010:


To safely game online, Avast recommends a few simple precautions.

• Keep all your apps, and especially your antivirus, updated.
• Don't turn off your antivirus while you're playing games.
• Instead, use your antivirus' gaming function if you want to game uninterrupted.
• Beware of downloading games via warez sites, which are a known avenue for spreading malware.

Help, I'm Stuck in London and Can't Get Home

This morning (east coast time) I got an unsolicited Facebook chat. The user was a former colleague (in fact, a former PCMag colleague), but not a Facebook friend nor were we ever all that close. We hadn't spoken in years.
He asked how I was, and then volunteered that he wasn't doing too well. "I'm stuck with my family in London,United Kingdom". I didn't to hear any more. This is an old scam, a social networking version of the Nigerian 419 where someone tricks you into transferring money or access to your bank account.

I disconnected and immediately went to find my friend's e-mail address and told him about it. Then I looked on Facebook, and found where you should go first if this ever happens to you.
Go to Facebook's "My friend's account is being used by someone claiming they are stuck in a far away location and need assistance" page. There you can tell Facebook what's going on. You have to fill out a short form. It's best if you retain the content of the chat, but it's not necessary.

I immediately got an automated confirmation from Facebook that they received my report. 6 minutes later I received a message that they "...have taken the appropriate action to secure this person's account." Furthermore:
In order to resolve this matter, please ask the account holder to view the Security section of Facebook's Help Center:
From here, they can take immediate steps to contact us and reestablish ownership of the account.

I think it's interesting, and not coincidental, that my friend lives on the west coast and I was on the east coast. That the message came morning east coast time made it reasonable that it came from London, but my friend was likely still asleep. I think it's also by design that he's not a Facebook friend, but we have many mutual friends. This made it likely that we knew each other, but were not in touch recently.
It also made it likely that I wasn't the person he would ask for help in such a situation. Common sense is usually your best defense against scams like this. Use it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

PC Maintenance: How to Be Good to Your Computer

Here are 14 ways to treat your PC right, so it treats you in kind.We've all had the urge to throw our misbehaving computer out the window to the street below. There wonders of technology, but they can also be maddening devices, occasionally put here to vex us. Deep down, though, we know the problem is often, well, ourselves. Sometimes you just don't treat the hardware—nor its operating system—the way it should be treated.

It's not like you need to buy it flowers or jewelry, but you do have to pay it some attention. In other words, you need to perform some consistent maintenance for a PC to treat you well in return. Here are 14 things you—or those who torture you most with unnecessary tech support calls—can do to repair your relationship with your computer, starting today.

Remember, some of these tips might sound basic, but they're often ignored. And, hey, everyone has to start somewhere.

1. Fight the Dust
Dust is the ultimate enemy of the innards of the PC, causing heat build up that can result in spontaneous reboots or worse. Buy some canned air (i.e. a gas duster) and make sure to blow out the vents.

2. Stay Off the Floor
We understand that your desk space comes at a premium, but try not to put your PC on the floor. Not only will you avoid the bigger, meaner dust bunnies, but elevation keeps the computer away from overactive feet kicking out the plug, protects it from out of control vacuum cleaner collisions, and guards it from, worst of all, carpet-generated static electricity.

3. Out of the Closet
Some computer furniture features a built-in, hideaway cabinet to store a desktop/tower PC. The computer is not Harry Potter! Do not put it in a closet. Heat build up will kill it and you'll miss out on some great tech wizardry. Let your PC breathe.

4. Don't Mash the Keys
Guess what? Pushing that elevator button multiple times doesn't help. Neither does bashing your keyboard.

5. Stop Having Lunch with YouTube
We've all had to work through lunch, or even just spent our lunch enjoying a little YouTube, so, odds are, the occasional crumb or spilled soda has made its way onto your keyboard and into your laptops. Keep the messes away from your system. Your computer likes you even more.

6. Keep Inputs Clean
Nothing on a computer gets dirtier than your keyboard and mouse—even if you don't eat lunch at your desk. Crud build-up can prevent decent typing or cursor movement. You should clean them with canned air, or even a vacuum with a brush. You could even try the Cyber Clean compound, a goo that pulls off all your germy grossness

7. Shut Down, Don't Power Off
Sorry, computers aren't TVs, and that means when you're done using them, you shouldn't just power them down (or worse, unplug). Until we get the instant on/off computer we all crave, you should follow the proper procedures for shutting down the OS: close all windows, remove CDs/DVDs, Shut Down, and power off.

8. Limit Program Auto-LoadingLots of programs start with Windows, but not all of them should.

9. Wash Windows, Carefully
The window to your Windows is your monitor. Keep in clean and fingerprint free. But don't use actual glass cleaner on an LCD screen unless you like permanent streaks. Use soft cloths like you'd use on eyeglasses for dust, and buy advanced monitor wipes to do any serious cleaning.

10. Defrag Drives
As hard disk drives get bigger and bigger, it may be more important than ever to defragment the contents. This way the computer won't spend all of its time trying to find files spread across the platters.

11. Remove Old Programs
We all occasionally install software we don't use regularly, if at all, in the long run. Those extra programs do more than take up space, they could cause conflicts with other programs.

12. Clean the (OS) Crap
Those uninstalled programs leave stuff in the registry. Couple that with browsers cookies, OS temp files, memory dump files, and file fragments and your drive could be clogged with a whole lot of crap. Run CCleaner (guess what the extra C is for) to excise the unneeded.

13. Got to Sleep (or Hibernate)
It's tempting to let PCs run 24/7, but everything needs to rest occasionally. If you don't want to go through a long startup, at least set your PC to sleep (a power-saving mode) or better yet, hibernate (it saves your work and almost powers off but comes back faster than having to perform a full boot-up).

14. Max Out the RAM
You want your computer to last a long, long time, right? When it starts to feel like its not performing up to snuff, the first thing you should do is increase the amount of RAM to the maximum allowed. It'll add years to your computing.

For those of you who don't want to, can't, or aren't comfortable with some of the maintenanceyour PC should have - please feel free to call us at 815 345 4930 and we'll be happy to do it for you and do it right!

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to Enable Desktop Notifications for Google Calendar in Chrome

One of the primary features that kept me using Outlook’s calendar was the desktop notifications that popped up to remind me when it was time for another boring meeting. Now with Google Calendar and Chrome notifications, I’ll never miss the chance to sleep through another meeting.

Seriously, meetings are boring.

But more to the point, if you’re using Google Chrome there’s a built-in desktop notifications feature, and all you have to do is enable a Labs feature in Google Calendar to get it to start showing notifications on your desktop.

Make Sure Chrome Has Desktop Notifications Enabled
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that Chrome is set to allow desktop notifications. Head into Tools –> Options –> Under the Hood –> Content settings.

Next, select Notifications on the left-hand side, and then make sure the middle option for “Ask me when a site wants to show desktop notifications” is selected. You may want to click on the Exceptions button and make sure Google Calendar isn’t blocked in there.

Enable Desktop Notifications in Google Calendar
Now that we’ve made sure Chrome is configured properly, you’ll want to head into Google Calendar, open up the Settings link in the top right, and then go to the Labs section.

Find the “Gentle Reminders” item in the list, click the Enable button, and then Save at the bottom. If the option is already enabled but you aren’t getting desktop notifications, you should disable it, Save, and then Enable it again.

Once you’ve clicked the Save button you’ll see a bar show up across the top of the window, and you’ll need to click the Allow button.

As soon as you do, you’ll see a sample notification to show up on the bottom of the screen.

You’ll have to manually close out of the notifications, which is slightly annoying sometimes, but it’s probably a good thing so you won’t miss an important reminder.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Buy a Wireless Modem

By: Sascha Segan

Why limit your on-the-go Web surfing to hot spots when you can get online almost anywhere with a cellular modem or MiFi-style hotspot? Here's how to pick the right service and device to bring mobile broadband to your laptop.

It's an exciting time to get Internet on the go. Less-expensive 3G service plans and new 4G networks are making wireless cellular modems faster and more affordable than ever. In many cases, you don't even need to sign a contract.

Wireless modems aren't just for PCs any more, either. Many connections will work other gadgets too, like your iPod Touch or iPad. (They can even turn those devices into phones, with the right voice-over-IP software.) Depending on your hardware, plan and usage, you'll pay anywhere from $20 to $60 a month for nationwide connectivity at speeds of up to 6Mbps, which is as fast as some cable connections. Here's what you need to know to pick the right service and hardware.

First, Understand the Limits
Finally, wireless broadband isn't for everyone. If you download a lot of movies and video, do it over a wired connection. Even "unlimited" wireless broadband providers may throttle your speeds if you download tens of gigabytes every month. Avid gamers will probably want to stick with wires, too, as wireless networks have much higher latency and lag than DSL and cable connections.

Choose Your Carrier
The wireless broadband arena is more competitive than ever. Earlier this year, we tested six 3G and 4G networks nationwide, finding AT&T to be the fastest but least reliable, and seeing a lot of potential in Sprint's and T-Mobile's new technologies. Our Fastest Mobile Networks 2010feature spotlights network performance in 18 cities, so make sure to see if we checked network performance near you.

AT&T's nationwide 3G is based on a fast HSPA 7.2 technology, but the carrier has had some reliability problems that showed up in our tests. That said, AT&T has been improving over the past year. Along with Verizon, it's the highest-priced provider, offering 5GB/month for $60 and requiring a contract.

Cricket covers about a third of the nation with somewhat slow, but reliable 3G. This smaller provider used to be the price leaders, but Sprint and T-Mobile have matched Cricket's flagship service plan. Cricket offers 2.5GB/month for $40, 5GB for $50, and 7.5GB for $60 with no contract. If you go over the max, Cricket won't cut you off, but it will slow you down until the next month starts.

Sprint offers two intriguing options. For $60/month, you can get a 3G/4G modem or hotspot that works on Sprint's WiMax network where that's available, or on 3G where it isn't. WiMax is in dozens of cities, and coming to more every month, but it isn't nationwide. Sprint's Virgin Mobile brand, meanwhile, sells modems that work exclusively on 3G for $40/month, unlimited use, no contract. That's currently the best wireless broadband deal in the U.S.

T-Mobile's HSPA+ is super-fast and spreading. While it's a 3G technology, we found it to be as fast as Sprint's 4G in many locations—we're talking around 5Mbps. T-Mobile offers 200MB/month for $25 or 5GB for $40, and like Cricket, it will throttle speeds rather than cutting you off if you go over your limit on the $40 plan. Verizon Wireless doesn't have the fastest speeds, but its coverage is second to none. The carrier charges Cadillac prices, though: $40/month for 250MB or $60 for 5GB with a two-year contract, and even more if you want prepaid use. US Cellular, Cincinnati Bell, and other smaller carriers also offer modem solutions, but we haven't reviewed them.

Can't get coverage where you live? WISPs (wireless ISPs) generally use larger, home-based modems, but they're available in many (though not all) small towns where traditional broadband or cellular service can't be found. What's more, they don't carry 5GB limits.

To Tether Or Not To Tether?
If you decide to make the 3G jump, cellular modems aren't the only option. You'll find a wide range of laptops and netbooks with integrated 3G from almost every manufacturer, except Apple. In our tests, these devices typically deliver solid speed and reception—but of course, you've got to buy a new system, and you may be yoked to one wireless carrier for the life of the PC.
A growing number of smartphones, such as Verizon's Motorola Droid X and Sprint's HTC EVO 4Galso have integrated "wireless hotspot" modes, which let them connect other devices via Wi-Fi. You have to pay an add-on fee, usually around $20/month, and you'll typically get around 2GB of data use. This is a good solution for occasional use, but since it drains your phone's battery and can block phone calls (depending on the phone used), it isn't an all-the-time solution. Also, most smartphones that don't have wireless hotspot modes can frequently work as USB modems through a tethered cable connection, for a similar price.

Hardware Types
So you've decided to go for a cellular modem: there are three main types including cards, USB sticks, and MiFi-style hotspots.
If you're going to use one PC with your modem, get a card or USB stick. Cards are convenient because you can pop one in and forget it, but you have to have a laptop with an ExpressCard/34 or PC Card slot. USB sticks are fussier, but they're easy to move between devices and they work with PCs that don't have card slots. With both cards and USB modems, you'll probably have to load some sort of drivers and connection software onto your PC or Mac.

Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots such as Novatel's MiFi 2200 and Sierra's Overdrive use a cellular connection to let you hook up multiple PCs, iPads, iPhones, and other mobile devices to the Internet via Wi-Fi. They're very easy to operate, and you typically don't have to load any special software onto your PC to connect with one. But they give you yet another gadget to tote charge, and connections can be slower than with a dedicated modem (especially over a 4G network) because of the whims of Wi-Fi signals.

Extras and Bonuses
Some modems offer features beyond simple connectivity. Many current modems add GPS functionality to your laptop, which I haven't found all that useful; the GPS radios in modems are less sensitive than those in smartphones, and it's a bit awkward to use your laptop for navigation. A more-useful feature, many modems have connectors for external antennas, which can really boost signal strength in rural areas. Sites like sell third-party antennas for most modems. I also really like the LCD display on the Sierra Overdrive and the graduated lights on the Cricket USB Broadband Modem A600, both of which report the strength of your 3G signal right on the device.

Beware: Overseas Surfing Will Cost You
Traveling abroad? Taking your laptop and modem along isn't as easy as it might seem. AT&T modems will work almost everywhere in the world, but if you're leaving the country, you should get a temporary data add-on to your service plan. You can opt for from 20MB to 200MB of data usage ($25 to $229 per month). If you don't have one of these plans, you'll be charged up to $20 per megabyte (that's MB, not GB) for data overseas. Ouch. T-Mobile modems also work abroad, but add-on plans are not available—it's just $15 per megabyte outside the U.S. and Canada.

If you're with Verizon, your modem will work in Canada, and the company offers a global USB modem that works with a $129.99-per-month plan for use in other countries. Otherwise, you're stuck with a $20-per-megabyte rate. Sprint will also sell you special international cards and modems but offers no overseas data-roaming plan; if you go to Europe, for instance, you'll pay a flat rate of $16 per megabyte.
Unlocked world-capable modems do exist, and in theory, you can put a foreign SIM card into an AT&T or T-Mobile modem to get local service at low rates. But in practice, I've found this to be nearly impossible to achieve. Modem and OS settings are so arcane, especially when you're dealing with customer service in a foreign language, that I can't push this as a practical solution.

If you need Internet access outside the U.S., use your hotel Wi-Fi, hunt down Wi-Fi hot spots or use a BlackBerry with an international data plan, which is much less expensive than a cellular card plan.

Four Key Areas Where IT Drives Business Results

By Ericka Chickowski on 2010-09-27

Researchers from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas and Sybase explored the relationship between data management and business results. Improvements in variables including quality, usability, intelligence, remote accessibility and sales mobility were linked to improvements in metrics used to assess financial performance at Fortune 1000 companies. "Despite decades of IT investment in information technology, the direct correlation between those investments and the financial performance of the business has eluded senior decision-makers," Anitesh Barua, distinguished teaching professor and lead researcher at University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement. "This is the first study that quantifies the relationship between incremental improvements in data and key performance metrics of businesses today. Previous studies tell us neither the magnitude of the effect on performance nor what it takes to improve the attributes of data. We are encouraged by our findings and expect the business community to take notice."

1. Employee Productivity
Typically defined and measured by sales per employee, employee productivity grows 14.4% given a 10% increase in data usability.
The median sales per employee at organizations studied was $388,000; improving data management could increase by $55,900 per year.

2. Return on Equity
This key number increases by 16% when goosed by 10% jumps in data quality and sales mobility.
A company with the study's median income of $410.47 million would make an additional $65.67 million per year through better data management.

3. Return on Invested Capital (ROIC)
Efficiency in allocating capital edges up 1.4% with a 10% increase in sales mobility.
A company with $2.144 billion in capital would increase net income by $5.4 million every year through data management improvements.

4. Return on Assets
Efficient use of resources to generate income increases by 0.7 percent with a 10% improvement in intelligence and remote accessibility.
Better data management would net the average Fortune 1000 company an extra $2.87 million in income.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spammers Target LinkedIn Members with Malware

By: Fahmida Y. Rashid

Cisco Systems says spammers targeted LinkedIn members with fake connection requests that downloaded a worm known for stealing user bank account information.

Malicious cyber-criminals aren't just targeting Twitter users; LinkedIn members are in their crosshairs, as well.

LinkedIn members were reportedly deluged with spam e-mail messages masquerading as connection requests from the career-oriented social networking site Sept. 27.

Clicking on these requests sent users to a Website that displayed "PLEASE WAITING...4 SECONDS" before redirecting them to Google. During those 4 seconds, the Website downloaded Zeus data-theft malware onto their PCs, according to Cisco Systems.

Zeus, which embeds itself in the victim's Web browser and captures personal information such as online banking credentials, is widely used by criminals to pilfer from commercial bank accounts.

These messages accounted for as much as 24 percent of all spam sent within a 15-minute interval in the morning of Sept. 27, Cisco said. Cisco recommends that IT administrators warn users to delete connection requests, especially if they do not know the name of the contact.

Social networks are increasingly becoming a target for cyber-criminals. Twitter was hit over the weekend by a worm associated with a "WTF" tweet and a link, as well as the cross-scripting exploit that crippled the week of Sept. 20. Facebook users have not been immune, either.

Spam remains a popular form of attack, as with the "Here You Have" e-mail worm that wreaked havoc earlier in September. Cisco expects to see more spam messages containing malware sent to organizations to collect personal information.

LinkedIn has not yet publicly acknowledged the spam attack, nor warned users about the messages.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Report: Android Continues Strong Growth

By Andrew BergTuesday, September 28, 2010

Android just keeps growing, according to new numbers from Millennial Media's August Mobile Mix report that reaffirm what other recent reports have found.
Android ad requests on Millennial's ad network increased 39 percent month-over-month. Since January, Android has grown 996 percent.
Android's success is in recent months is accredited to the sudden proliferation of devices that run Google's mobile operating system. Motorola became the third largest device manufacturer on Millennial's network. The Motorola Droid moved up to the numbertwo position in the August Top 20 Mobile Phones list with over 9 percent impression share.
Meanwhile, Apple, which has been the leading device manufacturer on Millennial's network since September 2009, accounted for a 20 percent share of all device impressions.
Overall, smartphone impression share increased 3 percent month-over-month and represented 51 percent of the U.S. smartphone, feature phone and connected device impression share in August.
iPad ad requests increased 76 percent month-over-month.
Aside from the usual rundown, Millennial's monthly report took time to render a quick statistical snapshot of the average BlackBerry user with various metrics provided by comScore. According to comScore, 45 percent of BlackBerry users are women and the average income of a BlackBerry user is 13 percent higher than other smartphones. Additionally, fully 53 percent of BlackBerry users have a college degree, and 65 percent have full-time employment.

Twitter Users Hit by Another Worm

By: Brian Prince

Twitter users Sunday were infected by a worm that posted sexual messages on victims' profiles.

Twitter users were hit with yet another worm during the weekend.
This time, the tweets came bearing the message "WTF" with a link in tow. Clicking on the link automatically generated a post from the victim with a pornographic message.
“Clicking on the WTF link would take you to a webpage which contained some trivial code which used a CSRF (cross-site request forgery) technique to automatically post from the visitor's Twitter account,” explained Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “All the user sees if they visit the link is a blank page, but behind the scenes it has sent messages to Twitter to post from your account.”
Though Sophos did not know how many users were impacted, Sophos Senior Security Analyst Beth Jones said it was not "nearly as widespread" as last week's onMouseOver worms, which affected hundreds of thousands of Twitter users. In that case, a cross-site scripting vulnerability was exploited by various people to send out multiple worms that among other things redirected users to porn sites.
As in that incident, the most recent attack snared some high-profile Twitter users, including blogger Robert Scoble.
“Chances are that the reason why this attack spread so speedily is that people were curious to find out what they would find at the end of a link only described as 'WTF',” Cluley blogged.
Twitter reported Sept. 26 that the malicious link is disabled and that the exploit has been fixed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 Experiencing Slow Adoption

DATE: 2010-09-24 | By Leah Gabriel Nurik

Microsoft's Sharepoint 2010 is having a slow time winning over upgrades from previous versions, according to a new survey which says users object to the time and effort to deploy the system as well as the lack of easy-to-use interfaces for business users.

Microsoft SharePoint 2010, was released to manufacturing in April, but, according to a new market survey by BPM vendor Global360, the new version has not yet gained a loyal band of followers in the enterprise.
According to the study, 80 percent of current SharePoint deployments are still based on SharePoint 2007, and only 8 percent of those surveyed have already deployed SharePoint 2010.
So what’s the hold up? First of all, it's still early days. But also, those surveyed pointed to several deployment challenges, including the time and effort required to build real businessapplications (30 percent). Also a big deterrent was the “lack of intuitive, easy-to-use SharePoint-based interfaces for business users (21 percent).”
One of the issues with deployment business applications within SharePoint is the limited BPM functionality that comes with pre-packaged workflows that are perceived as simple, as well as limited development tools that require custom coding within SharePoint to meet the objectives of enterprise users.
Companies like social knowledge networks company Inmagic and Global 360 aim to solve the issue with tightly integrated SharePoint solutions that maximize the benefits of SharePoint but provide additional value and benefit for enterprise deployments of document management-type solutions.
"Real business problems are complex and often need many workflows in order to deal with exceptions. Organizations need visibility into what's happening end-to-end, and the capability to make changes quickly,” said Deborah Rosen, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Global 360.
Right now, the majority of enterprises have extended SharePoint’s content repository or portal technology to manage document workflows (67 percent) as well as to support general business processes (56 percent). Only 27 percent of organizations utilize over half of the documents stored in SharePoint to support “mission-critical” business processes.
SharePoint is a cash cow for Microsoft, and is in wide use by enterprises and offered in some manner through many VARs and MSPs. In March 2010 Forrester said “SharePoint's strengths as a collaboration environment have made it one of Microsoft's shining stars, with 2008 sales of $1.3 billion, growing at about 25 percent per annum" in its SharePoint And BPM - Finding the Sweet Spot.

Microsoft Loses Three to the Competition

By: Darryl K. Taft

Microsoft has recently lost a few key engineers and marketers to social networking and gaming companies. While turnover is expected, Microsoft lost three solid citizens of its empire.

Microsoft has recently lost a few key engineers and marketers to newer search, social networking and gaming companies.
Chris Wilson and Douglas Purdy were Microsoft architects who have left Microsoft to head to Google and Facebook, respectively. And Anand Iyer, a former senior product manager at Microsoft whose primary job seemed to be to serve as a liaison between Microsoft and startups in Silicon Valley, said he is leaving Microsoft to likely join a gaming company.
Wilson was a platform architect of the Internet Explorer platform team at Microsoft, and ex-group program manager. He represented Microsoft on several Web-related standards bodies. He has left Microsoft to join Google at its Seattle offices in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.
In a blog post about his departure, Wilson said: “I’m very excited to work for a company that invests so much in making the Web platform better for developers and consumers, and I hope that I can use this as an opportunity to not only do no evil, but to actively do good.” Wilson was obviously referring to Google’s so-called tagline of “Do No Evil.”
Wilson began working on Web browsers in 1993 when he co-authored the first Windows versions of NCSA Mosaic, the first mass-market WWW browser. After leaving NCSA in 1994 and spending a year working on the Web browser for SPRY, Wilson joined Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team as a developer in 1995. Wilson has participated in many standards working groups, in particular helping develop standards for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), HTML, the DOM (Document Object) and XSL through the W3C working groups. He also developed the first implementations of CSS in Internet Explorer.
Meanwhile, Iyer is leaving the software giant to possibly work for a mobile gaming company. However, it seems Iyer’s leaving is more related to two things. One is that, in the Valley, at least, Microsoft is no longer viewed as innovative. And the other is that he was being pressured to move to work out of Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
“I had a candid conversation with my management,” Iyer said in a blog post. “I was told that while I was doing well (paraphrasing ;) in order to move ahead in my career, I needed to move to Redmond – it was a matter of ‘when’. I would have to give up my home, my family, my friends and move from one of the best cities in the world to, well, Redmond.”
It is kind of hard to be Microsoft’s evangelist to Silicon Valley if you have to work in Redmond.
In his post, Iyer reminisces: “I started in January 2005 as a Developer Evangelist based in the Valley – my job was to 'sell' developers on the idea of .NET. One of my first assignments was Visual Studio 2005 and Team System (this was Microsoft’s foray into the ALM – Application Lifecycle Management -- space).”
Iyer then talks about evangelizing Windows Vista, Silverlight, Windows Azure, open source, interoperability, the company’s BizSpark program for startups, and for the last 15 months Windows Phone 7, as a product manager on that technology’s developer platform.
However, at a startup-focused event sponsored by PayPal, where the topic of innovation came up, Iyer saw how much of an uphill battle he faced. “Later on, the audience was polled to see who they thought was a company that bred innovation, like PayPal did, and the options were: Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Apple,” he said in his post. “No mention of Microsoft. (FYI, Facebook won that poll).”
So, pressured to move, Iyer said he decided to leave Microsoft instead. “I’m sad but I know this is absolutely the right thing for me to do,” he said. “I’ve met the most amazing, most diverse and by far the most intelligent group of people over the last few years. The opportunities that Microsoft has helped create for me are truly unbelievable and I will be forever grateful. Everyone I’ve met and dealt with has and will continue to have a profoundly significant influence on my life.”
Ironically, location played a bit in both Iyer’s and Wilson’s decision to move on. Though Microsoft has one of the most varied and talented work forces in the business, the company has had trouble getting many employees to move to and then stay in the Redmond/Seattle area. Said Wilson: “I’ll spare the minor details of my decision (other than how excited I am to turn my Office-Space-style commute into a 6 mile bike ride to Google’s Fremont office)…”
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s decision to kill or severely hamper its Oslo tools effort hastened former Microsoft software architect Douglas Purdy to leave early in September. The project codenamed Oslo was a set of future Microsoft modeling technologies that aim to provide significant productivity gains across the lifecycle of .NET Framework applications by enabling developers, architects and IT professionals to work together more effectively.
Although Purdy does not come out and say the dismantling of Oslo affected his decision, of his move to Facebook, sources at Microsoft said it did. In a blog post, Purdy said: “Today is my first day at Facebook. During my conversations with the leadership there, it was clear that Facebook is committed to becoming an essential platform for developers, helping them to be successful through open-source tools, frameworks and, of course, Web APIs. Further, the Facebook vision around the Graph API and Open Graph Protocol (which debuted at f8 this spring) is the closest thing to what I call the ‘Infobus’ I have yet seen; convincing me that Facebook was one of the most leveraged places for me.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Global 'IT debt' hits $500 billion, on the way to $1 trillion

A backlog of maintenance needed to bring all applications up to date poses a serious risk to business systems, Gartner says

By Jon Brodkin | Network World

Global "IT debt" will reach $500 billion this year and could rise to $1 trillion by 2015, Gartner analysts have estimated.
IT debt is essentially the cost of maintenance needed to bring all applications up to date. Five-hundred billion dollars would be needed to clear "the backlog of maintenance … required to bringthe corporate applications portfolio to a fully supported current release state," Gartner says.

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IT debt as Gartner defines it is unlikely to be wiped out completely, even in stronger economic times, because technology departments will always prioritize certain applications over others. But Gartner -- which also recently advised CIOs to plan for a second recession -- claims the debt is higher than ever before and that the maintenance backlog represents a serious risk to business systems.

Over the last decade, IT budget cuts have "fallen disproportionately on maintenance activities -- the upgrades that keep the application portfolio up-to-date and fully supported," Gartner says. "There is little problem if this is done in one year, or even in two years, but year after year of deferred maintenance means that the application portfolio risks getting dangerously out of date."

"While it is true that there has never been an IT organization without a backlog of maintenance activity, the scale of the problem is significantly greater than it has ever been," the analyst firm also says.
Perhaps understandably, IT departments have been focusing on projects that "deliver new functionality to the rest of the business," rather than keeping all old systems fully up-to-date, according to the analyst firm.
This is an interesting counterpoint to another oft-complained-about problem, that IT departments have been unable to innovate because they devote the vast majority of their budgets to maintaining existing systems.
IT departments can seemingly never win, because even when they focus on building new systems, they are potentially boosting the IT debt "because the additional functionality and complexity will need to be maintained and upgraded to a more-reliable state at some point in the future," Gartner says.While the entire IT debt, or maintenance backlog, isn't likely to grow much smaller IT departments could at least do a better job cataloguing the problem. Gartner recommends producing annual status reports on the state of the application portfolio, "detailing the number of applications in use, the number acquired, the number decommissioned, and the current and projected costs of both operating and sustaining or improving the integrity of the application assets."
"The issue is not just that maintenance keeps on getting deferred, it is that the lack of an application inventory and the absence of a structured review process for the application portfolio," Gartner says. "This means the IT management team is simply never aware of the true scale of the problem. This problem, hidden from sight, is getting bigger every year and more difficult to deal with every year."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Windows 7 users will have to upgrade to SP1 when IE9 goes final next year

By Gregg Keizer | Computerworld

Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser will require Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), a not-yet-released major update to the operating system, the company said today.
According to a FAQ posted on the company's site, Windows 7 users will need to install SP1 prior to adding IE9. People running Windows Vista must have that operating system's SP2 in place.
[ Check out Internet Explorer 9: A visual tour and InfoWorld's First look at the Internet Explorer 9 beta. | InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard asks: Is IE9 good enough to beat Firefox and Chrome? | Discover what's new in business applications with InfoWorld's Technology: Applications newsletter and Killer Apps blog. ]
The Ars Technica technology site first reported on the Windows 7 SP1 requirement Thursday.
Microsoft has not divulged the release dates of Windows 7 SP1 or IE9, but both are expected to appear in the first half of 2011. That six-month window covers Microsoft's current plans for Windows 7 SP1, while many experts believe the company will ship the final of IE9 in April 2011 to coincide with its annual MIX conference.
The FAQ suggests that the final versions of both two products will ship simultaneously, or nearly so.
The beta of IE9 that launched Sept. 15 requires four already-available Windows 7 updates -- two published in June, the others in August -- that are primarily graphics-related bug fixes or that add support for IE9 functionality.
But the final will apparently demand more, a curious move since Microsoft has repeatedly characterized Windows 7 SP1 as nothing more than a collection of previously-released security patches and other fixes. Unlike 2004's Windows XP SP2, Windows 7 SP1 will not include new features.
"Organizations must plan, pilot and deploy Internet Explorer 9 as part of or after a Windows 7 SP1 deployment," Microsoft maintained in the FAQ.
The SP1 requirement may be derived from the four updates already available -- they would be packaged in SP1 -- or from future, not-yet-released updates -- or a combination of the two.
This isn't the first time Microsoft has blocked some users from running IE9. The new browser willnot run on Windows XP , the still-dominant nine-year-old OS.
Earlier this week, Microsoft urged companies not to wait for IE9 to migrate their PCs to Windows 7, a recommendation the FAQ repeated. "Microsoft recommends that organizations do not disrupt ongoing deployment projects but continue deploying Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8," the FAQ stated.
Pushing enterprises to upgrade to Windows 7 now, not at some point after IE9's launch, is to Microsoft's benefit, of course, since the sooner it gets customers onto the new operating system, the sooner it reaps revenue from the OS and associated products, such as Windows Server 2008 R2 and SharePoint 2010.
Microsoft made a point to stress that even though companies moving to the Windows 7/IE8 combination may use that browser for only a limited time, the work would not be wasted.
"Your Internet Explorer 8 migration investments will be preserved when you are ready to deploy Internet Explorer 9," argued Rich Reynolds , Microsoft's chief Windows marketing executive, in a post to a company blog Tuesday.
Even so, Microsoft doesn't want to dissuade users from trying out IE9.
"Regardless of your organization's stage of Windows 7 deployment plans, we still encourage you to explore the Internet Explorer 9 Beta," added Reynolds.
The IE9 FAQ also said that Microsoft will release the usual array of deployment tools for IE9, including a blocking utility to prevent Windows Update from automatically downloading and installing the new browser. Microsoft has released such blocking tools for other browsers, including IE8 in 2009 and IE7 in 2006.
Microsoft did not immediately reply to questions on the IE9-Windows 7 SP1 ties, including why SP1 is necessary to run the new browser.
The IE9 beta can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.

30 Fast Facts on Facebook at Work

1. Microsoft is the leading corporate user of Facebook and other social media, based on membership and frequency of posts at Fortune 1000 companies.
2. Others in the top five, ranked by NetProspex: Amazon, eBay, Google, and Walt Disney. Apple was number 10.
3. Hiring managers are more likely to use Facebook to research prospects than LinkedIn, which is designed for job-related networking.
4. More than one-third of those managers find content that causes them to pass up on the job seeker.
5. The top disqualifier: posting of inappropriate or provocative photos or information
6. Facebook consumes 4.5 percent of corporate bandwidth, according to a recent Network Box survey, accounting for 7 percent of all outward business traffic.
7. 77% of workers who have a Facebook account use it during work, according to Nucleus Research.
8. Among those active at work, 87 percent said they had no clear business reason for using the site.
9. Nucleus estimates that companies that allow users to access Facebook in the workplace lose an average of 1.5 percent in employee productivity.
10. 54 percent of US companies say they've banned workers from using Facebook while on the job, according to Robert Half Technology.
11. 19 percent of companies allow social networking for business purposes only; 16 percent allow limited personal use; 10 percent allow full access.
12. 31 percent of consumers say they check out retailers Facebook fan pages, almost twice the number from 2009.
13. 63% percent of marketers and agency pros have already implemented social media programs, according to The Pivot Conference.
14. Significant additional investment in social media marketing programs is coming in the next 12 months, according to The Pivot Conference.
15. 30 percent of brand marketers don't think that building customer loyalty has become easier because of social networking.
16. 41 percent of brand marketers don't think social media's impact is serious enough to lead to a change in brand strategy.
17. Over 150 million of Facebook’s 500 million+ users access the service through their mobile devices.
18. People using mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
19. Half of Facebook's active users log on to Facebook on any given day; 35 million users update their statuses each day.
20. Two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook.
21. There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products.
22. More than one million websites have integrated with the Facebook Platform.
23. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month.
24. More than 1.5 million local businesses have active pages.
25. 13 percent of US traffic to web portals Yahoo, Bing and AOL come from Facebook, according to analytics firm Compete.
26. Only 19 percent of people find ads on social networks relevant, according to The Participatory Marketing Network.
27. Nielsen says that consumers spend more than five and a half hours on social networking sites per day.
28. Facebook reports that its users spend 700 billion minutes on the network each month.
29. About a third of Facebook users are from the US; more than 70 translations are available.
30. About 25 percent of Facebook users haven't changed their default privacy settings, according to security company Webroot.