Windows XP Revisited – Teaching the Faithful Old Dog Some New Tricks

Just lately it seems to be the fashion amongst writers on the internet to compare and criticise operating systems. While one user talks up the merits of Ubuntu Linux versus Windows Vista on her blog, another is quick to criticise Ubuntu’s lack of user friendly features and available software. In this article I am here to sing the praises of the old dog Windows XP. Once the all singing all dancing multimedia darling, XP is now the older brother of the much younger and trendier Windows Vista. While Vista can be the life and soul of the party, it is still very much a problem child for many users who are frustrated with incompatibilities, poor driver support and degraded performance in multimedia applications and games. If, like me, your Vista experience wasn’t all you hoped it would be, read on as we take another look at Windows XP and find that you really can teach an old dog some new tricks.

Security

One of the biggest shocks long time Windows users had to face when upgrading to Vista was the new security measures, specifically User Account Controls. Microsoft’s answer to the problem of rampant malware on Windows machines was a barrage of security checks which can quickly become daunting. While emulating this feature might seem like a bad idea, UAC is a partial solution to a very sticky problem and the alternative, allowing malware to continue to spread unhindered, is not really an option. Although you can’t have Vista style user account control under XP, there are a number of alternatives. An aggressive firewall product such as Outpost firewall not only monitors internet traffic but also alerts you when programs misbehave or perform potentially dangerous operations. Outpost costs $39.95 per year and includes a regularly updated spyware scanner.

Sudown is similar to UAC and allows you to temporarily elevate the privileges on a limited account to that of an administrator account in order to run programs such as installers. Sudown is less intrusive than UAC but arguably less secure and less complete (you may find that you still have to log into the administrators account under some conditions). Sudown is a free utility and is available from sourceforge.

Windows Explorer

Windows explorer featured several significant upgrades in Vista. Handling of photographs and multimedia files was improved and search was fully integrated. “Breadcrumbs” were introduced, this is a somewhat bizarre name Microsoft gave to their new windows explorer extension that allows for convenient browsing between directories and subdirectories.

While you cannot reproduce the Windows Vista explorer completely, you can actually go one better. Directory Opus is the most powerful file manager/explorer on the planet and works extremely well with Windows XP. If a little intimidating at first, most users will quickly learn to appreciate the power and flexibility this utility offers. Surpassing Vista’s new Windows Explorer in almost every department and with powerful photo/multimedia features, Directory Opus really is worth the learning curve and there are many comprehensive tutorials available on the internet to help ease new users in. Directory Opus costs around $70 per licence. If you want to learn more about this superb utility then start here.

Search

Windows Vista’s integrated desktop search is one of my favourite new features in the operating system. Here, XP lags a little behind its younger sibling but it isn’t an entirely lost cause. Many users do not realise, but Microsoft Desktop Search is also available for free for Windows XP. While it lacks the slick integration with Windows Explorer, it is still a powerful tool. You can download Desktop Search for XP

here.

Looking to really get organised? Desktop search is good, but many of us have piles of CD-R or DVD-R disks kicking around our workplaces. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something that could neatly catalogue all those files too? Well, there is. The aptly named “WhereIsIt?” is able to neatly organise and catalogue not only files on your hard disk but files stashed away on removable disks too. WhereIsIt? Is shareware, with the full version costing $39.95 per licence. Enter “WhereIsIt” into Google to find out more.

Look and Feel

For those systems able to run it, the new Aero interface in Windows Vista is both fast and beautiful. By comparison, the blues and creams of Windows XP look distinctly last generation. Of course, beauty is only skin deep and what really matters is functionality. That said, a little more eye candy obviously appeals to a lot of people, since numerous web-sites and utilities have sprung up for Windows XP with the sole aim of making the operating system look better. The pinnacle of these utilities is the Object Desktop suite from Stardock. With a few clicks you can instantly transform your XP desktops look and feel into any of hundreds of visual styles available for download from Stardock’s website. Want Aero-like special effects on Windows XP? Object Desktop Window FX can do them and you can even customise exactly which visual effects to use. Want two start menus? No problem, with Objectbar you can do that too. Want Windows Dreamscene animated wallpapers? Well sorry, you are out of luck this time. The price for all this desktop pimping? $49.95. To find out more, or download a trial version, enter object desktop into Google. All this talk of desktop enhancements brings us nicely on to:-

Sidebar and Widgets

Windows Vista comes with it’s own sidebar with detachable widgets, but sidebars and widgets are old news in Windows (and indeed in most other modern operating systems too). My favourite XP sidebar is the somewhat unoriginally named “Desktop Sidebar”. This sidebar is highly configurable, uncluttered and includes the best RSS news reader/ticker out of all the sidebars and widgets I have ever tried. In fact I even run Desktop Sidebar in preference to Vistas own sidebar on my Windows Vista installation. Google search for “desktop sidebar” to find out more.

If widgets are you thing then there are currently several competing standards. The Open Widget Engine is gaining momentum slowly, with the aim of one day uniting the efforts of widget makers across the world. Until that day comes, you can choose between Google Desktop, Desktop X and Yahoo Widgets. Desktop X is a powerful widget engine that is included as part of the Object Desktop suite that I mentioned in the Look and Feel section. Yahoo and Google’s respective offerings are free and hence much more popular. Yahoo widgets probably includes the best selection of widgets out of all the widget engines available. Again, do a quick Google search on the program that interests you the most to find out more.

Media Centre

Windows XP media centre edition has been around for a while now, but an upgrade to Vista Ultimate or Home Premium will give you full media centre capabilities included in the price. If you are using vanilla XP home or Professional and you want media centre capabilities, they are available for free in the shape of Media Portal, an open source and highly configurable media centre application. Also free and worth a look (at least if you are American) is Yahoo Go For TV. Based on Meedio, which was one of the best commercial media centre products for Windows, Go For TV seems to have been left to stagnate since Yahoo took control. Nevertheless there are already a wide range of plug-ins and accessories available for it that were previously developed for Meedio. Bizarrely, Yahoo currently insists on locking out all users outside of the United States, so if you live elsewhere in the world, give this one a miss. Set Google hunting for “media portal” or “Yahoo Go for TV” to find out more.

Games and Direct X 10

As any PC gamer will tell you, XP is (at the time of writing) the best operating system for games. With Vista, Microsoft introduced DirectX10 and made it Vista only. A number of breathtaking DirectX 10 games are regularly plastered over the preview pages on major PC gaming websites and magazines. To date however, aside from a few update patches for older games, Microsoft’s cutting edge games for DirectX10/Vista basically consist of Shadowrun (an above average multiplayer FPS) and Halo 2 (A conversion of an old Xbox game). Re-hashing a previous generation console title to demonstrate your bleeding edge graphics technology must have made sense to someone in Microsoft but it makes little sense to gamers assessing if an upgrade to Vista is worth their money, especially in light of the performance handicap or crippled sound that some games exhibit under Vista. However, like every new gaming platform, fast forward to Christmas and XP gamers can expect to be enviously eyeing up the new Vista only games starting to appear. If you are hoping that I’m going to tell you now some way of getting DirectX 10 to work on XP, you are going to be disappointed. A company called Falling Leaf systems claims to be working on some sort of project that would accomplish this feat, but they still have a lot to prove especially considering early versions struggled to run the most basic of DirectX 10 demo code. Unfortunately, it looks like DirectX 10 is one trick that XP isn’t going to be performing any time soon, if ever.

So there you have it, far from being on its last legs, Windows XP is still a very capable operating system with a fair few tricks up its sleeve. If you’re willing to invest in a little new software mentioned in this article (much of which also works under Vista) you can easily transform your XP into a top notch operating system and still enjoy your old games and multimedia software.

Credit Card Identity Theft – The Simple Explanation and Meaning

What does credit card identity theft really mean? Starting a day with the fact that you have just been robbed of your personal information is bad enough. The credit card number you saved on your computer becomes your three-year-old agony. You change your mind about the safety of a personal computer. The credit card identity theft is one of the most common online crimes.

The unauthorized use of another individual’s personal information in fraudulent acts is considered identity theft. This personal information can be:

• SSN,

• birth date,

• name,

• street address,

• email address,

• gender,

• marital status,

• geographical location,

• driver license number,

• credit card number,

• debit card number,

• Bank account number.

And therefore credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or similar payment tool recurring charge, to fraudulently obtain money or property. Credit and debit card numbers can be stolen from unsecured websites, personal computers and used in credit card identity theft.

Credit Card Identity Theft Facts

Whatever would someone want with stolen information? Believe it or not, there is a substantial and thriving market on the Dark Web selling this kind of data. Depending on how much personal information a thief can collect on one person, it could cost anywhere from $1 to $450 a piece.

These thieves are also referred to as hackers. The hackers are computer enthusiasts, however, the ones with fewer ethics are prone to stealing. Which, in consequence, brings us to the cybercrime groups always on the hunt for information.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted a research that showed that this stolen information will appear on black markets within minutes. It takes about 9 minutes for the thieves to categorize and put up someone’s identity for sale.

The most affected country in the world is Mexico. While 46% of all worldwide credit card identity thefts occur in the USA. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, this form of identity theft happens every two seconds. Seems that the most affected age group is over 50 years of age and young adults from 20 to 29.

The elders are having a problem because of their lack of knowledge. They are the easiest targets.

“It says I opened a new account?” – said the elderly Mrs. Smith shaking her head in shock. “Well, I have never… ” – the old lady kept going in disbelief when the bank called her.

That was the beginning of three years of agony for the old lady and $7,761 in expenses she had to borrow to solve the issue. Many of the victims have exactly the same financial losses due to being victims of credit card identity theft.

Mrs. Smith had discovered this shocking fraud within three months. However, Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) Aftermath Study shows reports that it takes almost three years for victims to realize their identities are stolen.

Credit Card Identity Theft Protection

An aftermath of credit card identity theft is emotionally, and physically exhausting. The greatest impact has the financial expense. How does someone protect themselves from the credit card frauds and identity theft?

The best practices for the users are:

– Reviewing the bank accounts, and credit statements on regular basis. A truth can be uncovered if the irregularities are noticed early.

– Keeping a social media and other accounts under control. It is a well-known fact that the social media networks are data hungry. Keeping a personal data to a bare minimum is the best practice. Also, ensuring that only friends can see the event posts.

– Running a scan and discovering personal information stored on the computer. The security companies developed a software designed to keep private information private. Such is the Identity Theft Preventer that scans within text files, as well as the Internet Browser to uncover the sensitive information exposed.

Storing the Personal Data on the Computer is a Bad Idea

Keeping the personally identifiable data away from the computer and hard drive can immensely prevent any inconveniences. The market research uncovers that many people save their information on their personal computer. Most of them save the bank account credentials or SSN numbers in text files.

Cisco’s research of the Asian market shows that 27% even store their personal data on office computers. Any trace of such data can get a user in much greater trouble. Some of the victims of identity theft have reported that they went through all sorts of inconveniences. Some had been interrogated by the law enforcement due to their personal data being abused by criminals.

The Malware created below the grid and on the Dark Web, can allow its creator to see all the files stored on victim’s computer. The majority of online Identity Thefts are performed through the distribution of malicious software. Keeping the personally identifiable data out of the reach can minimize the exposure of personal information.

FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/identity-theft

ITRC: https://www.idtheftcenter.org/

Yandere Simulator – A Stealth Video Game For The PC

Yandere Simulator is a free video game for PC users. It is a stealth type video game where the players play as a high school girl named Ayano Aishi. She is in love with her senior, senpai and wants to attain his attention by any means possible. It is quite a unique game with an addictive gameplay and good graphics. However, it is still in development stage and until it gets completed, it’s going to be a bit buggy.

The concept

Yandere Simulator is based on a typical Japanese high school theme. Ayano Aishi has a huge crush on her senpai and wants his love. However, she’s a bit reluctant to talk to him directly. And, to make things more difficult, it seems like her senpai is quite popular as other girls in the school are also trying to get close to him. Ayano has to eliminate her competition, and she can use all possible means to do so. Even blackmailing and killing other girls is allowed. However, she has to do these missions quietly, when no one is looking at her. Thus, comes the stealth element.

What’s in it for the players

Because of its high school drama element, the game is quite popular among the teenagers. However, that doesn’t stop some grown-up video gamers from playing the game. The gameplay is good despite the fact that the game is quite full of bugs. Control options are great, and the missions are challenging. To progress in the game players have to tasks that are quite immoral in the real world. However, it is this element that makes the game unique and addictive. Players have to complete the tasks without leaving any traces. Otherwise, Ayano will get caught and the game ends.

The game is quite detailed and relates quite much to the real world. For example, there is a social element in the game and that we live in a large group, we don’t want to get caught for the wrongdoings, etc.

The game is not complete

Again, Yandere Simulator is still in development stage and what available is the beta version. The developer of the game has made the beta version available on the internet for download and installation without spending any penny. Simply visit the official website to download the game. The download file is actually the game launcher using which you can also update the game. The game developer usually makes the update available after two weeks.

Since the game is still at testing phase, players experience quite many bugs, errors. In some cases, the game launcher doesn’t work and sometimes the game crashes. Also, you will never win the game because it is not complete yet.