First of all, I know quite a few people have joined this newsletter over the last month so welcome to all of you! You might want to have a look back at the July issue: www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/newsletter2008july.htm, which has an ebooklet called Staying Safe on the Internet, which I’d recommend you should read so you know how to keep your PC protected from internet nasties. (Don’t worry, there’s no charge for it.)
Of course, if you find your PC a bit of a handful and you’d like to make it easier, I’d recommend you have a read of: www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/compintsosaat.htm. But then, I have to admit I’m a bit biased, since I wrote it!
Right, let’s get stuck into this month’s issue.
Mini-article – Other Anti-virus programs
Last month I had a quite moan (www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/newsletter2008august.htm) about the changes to AVG anti-virus in the new version 8. And since I know quite a few of you are also having problems with it (Mum and Dad found another problem only last weekend!) I promised to have a look at the alternatives.
There are two main alternatives you don’t have to pay for: Avira and Avast. Here is what I think of them:
Avast – www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html
Simple enough: I wouldn’t go for this one. It works well enough in that it protects you from viruses. But it hogs more of the computer’s power. So everything else will be slowed down. If you already have it and are happy with it, that’s fine, it’ll keep you safe. But if you are deciding which program to go for, I don’t recommend this one.
Avira – www.free-av.de/en/index.html I think this is the one I’ll be running at home. The only real snag I’ve found is that it was created in Germany and some of the grammar is a bit poor. But you can still understand it – and let’s face it, there are plenty of British and American programs where you can’t understand what they’re saying!
It’s fair to say that Avira isn’t as fancy a program as AVG. AVG 8 includes an anti-spyware part and several other extras that you don’t get with Avira. But Avira does the basics, does them well and is reasonably easy to use. It’s definitely quicker than AVG 8 and doesn’t keep telling me that things are turned off that aren’t. And like AVG, you don’t need to pay for it.
Although Avira doesn’t have an anti-spyware part to it, you don’t have to pay for one. Windows Vista has one built in and if you have Windows XP, you can download Microsoft’s Defender from their website: www.microsoft.com
So far, I’ve been talking about programs you don’t have to pay for. If instead you are looking to buy one, all the major ones work well enough (for example Norton or McAfee) but I’d recommend Kaspersky. It’s a simple program but the toughest for viruses to beat, in my opinion. You can get it in just about any PC software shop.
One more option: if you’re running the previous version of AVG, version 7.5, I’d stick with it until AVG stop providing updates for it. It’s the best of the bunch, I think. But at some point, you will have to change. Let’s hope AVG have sorted out version 8 by then.
Don’t panic if you are using AVG 8. It will protect you from viruses. It’s just that I don’t think it’s as easy to use or control as the other programs.
Website of the month – Google maps & satellite pictures
In the past I’ve raved about how impressive Google Earth is – it’s a program that lets you view the world from satellite pictures. But there’s a better way to get at the same pictures now. Just visit http://maps.google.co.uk/. You can type an address or postcode into the box on the screen and if you press the ‘satellite’ button on the right, you get satellite pictures. It’s not quite as good as Google Earth because you have to look from directly above, but it’s easier to use and you don’t need to download a program first. As well as being interesting, it can be useful if, say, you’re planning a journey and want to see landmarks as well as street names.
I mentioned the met office website (www.metoffice.co.uk) for weather last month. Apparently there are one or two computers that can’t access this site – to do with the browser settings. But one reader found the met office also have a site www.metoffice.gov.uk, which does work. Thanks, Bernard! (By the way, I’ve no idea why the two are different. They have exactly the same information on them, but obviously they’re different in some technical way.)
Word to the Wise – Compress/compression
Compressing a file is a way to make the same file take up less space on your hard drive. That’s also good for emailing it. There are two ways you can use compression:
1 – Some files automatically compress themselves. All jpeg files are compressed to some extent so your photos take up less space.
2 – You can right-click on the file in My Documents or wherever it is and select ‘Send to > Compressed (zipped) file’. It will create a new copy of the file that’s compressed (leaving the original where it was). Then you can use the compressed one to email or whatever.
Right, that’s all for this month. I’m still working on those videos I mentioned last month. I’ve finished explaining exactly how to use Windows XP, I’ve covered all about the Internet and how to use it. I’ve just got to get to grips with Windows Vista and reveal all its quirks that can trip you up… so I’d better get back to that.
Bye for now,
All the above © Tim Wakeling 2008