Virus & Malware protection … Which one?

mb-logo[1]I get a lot of people asking my recommendations on virus protection these days. I think people think as I am a web developer, that loosely means I am available to chat about anything tech related.

I tend to try a few different virus scanners, mainly free ones, but have noticed a trend with the free virus protection available. Free scanners tend to pop up annoying ads or other products that they wish to on sell to you.

It really gets to the point where you wonder whats more annoying, the viruses or the software that is meant to protect you from them?

Another annoyance is speed. Is the virus protection is going to slow down my laptop and prevent me from getting work done, then what’s the point!

For a few months I surfed the net sans-virus protection. All the sites I visit are currently safe, so I should be fine, right?

I wasn’t till a few months later I had to fix a computer of a friend who managed to get a particular nasty piece of Malware on their machine. These new nasties are referred to as ransomware. They corrupt all of your files and then give you instructions on where to pay the ransom to get a key to recover your files. If you don’t pay their ransom within a specified time the amount doubles. The files are encrypted making them virtually impossible to crack without the key.

What troubles me about this, is if you do pay the ransom, you have no idea where the money is going to. You could be funding terrorists without your knowledge! If you are reading this, one important tip for right know is to use online storage such as OneDrive and Dropbox for all your photos and documents. This way if you ever get something like this you can get your files back from the cloud as it saves a revised copy.

After seeing how many things my friend lost due to carelessness I got back into using a virus scanner. The one I picked was a free one which is ad free and runs seamlessly with Windows 7. It’s no surprise that the virus scanner I picked is Microsoft Security Essentials!

But that alone just doesn’t get the job done. I am also using MalwareBytes. It is by far the best protection for Malware and Spyware that MSE misses. I started with the free version, but swapped to the paid version as it ticked all the boxes and was very cost effective. Plus the paid version gives you the real time protection to stop Malware at the source.

Using the two combined has worked for me and I haven’t noticed any real drop in the speed of my laptop.

Chromebooks … The future of laptops

large-1I got a Samsung Chromebook the other day and have to say … I am pretty impressed.

While it won’t replace my other laptop it’s perfect for using around the home for the casual web surfer.

I have decided to do a 30 day Chromebook challenge to use it as my primary laptop for a month.

A few days in and I am bold enough to put it out there that these types of laptops will be the way of the future. Gone will be the need for high performance, massive storage laptops as the world moves to online storage.

Faster internet has made this concept a reality and I have been an early adapter of online storage solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Sky Drive (now OneDrive).

But from an entrepreneurial point of view it has given me a great idea! Future programs will be cloud based, so it is just a matter of figuring out what programs haven’t quite made their way to web based applications yet?

These could be potential gold mines as more people look to rid themselves of traditional programs and go to web-based ones that don’t require frequent updates or knowledge to install.

This has opened up a big gap in my view for any entrepreneurs looking to take a slice of the online pie. Time for Jeremy to get a move on and start developing some much needed web applications, rather than whingeing about what’s not available!

Ability Mail Server: Spam fighting tips

spam-email[1]Ability Mail Server was the perfect mail server for a noob like me when I first started my web design & hosting business 5 years ago.

One issue I had though is how is the best way to fight spam?

I tried everything! Grey lists worked but caused a bit of a delay in email delivery. Real time blacklists worked fantastically (once I figured how to properly set them up). However, they tend to block so well that it didn’t give my Bayesian enough time to learn what is spam and what are genuine emails.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that RBL’s combined with a Bayesian filter did the trick for me. But it required me to think outside the box and several days of monitoring my email server logs.

But rather than block the mail that hit the RBL, I set it to a custom event. e.g. ‘RBL Triggered’. I was then able to use the content filter to redirect any mail with this custom event to a specific email address on the mail server. I was then able to look through these emails and put them in a spam folder to manually train the Bayesian filter.

Before long I was able to train the Bayesian filter and then set another content filter rule to redirect any mail with a Bayesian score of 55 and over to redirect to the mail address dedicated for spam.

I then tweaked these settings again so the RBL’s reject if three or more blacklists are hit and modified the content filter rule to send a copy to the spam email if one blacklist is hit.

This way I can still check for spam, but rule out false positives. I also found that some Gmail email addresses can make their way to blacklists due to spammers abusing free email services!

So which RBL’s are best? I found these ones work quite well for me:

  • zen.spamhaus.org
  • b.barracudacentral.org
  • psbl.surriel.com
  • bl.spamcop.net
  • cbl.abuseat.org
  • dnsbl.sorbs.net
  • combined.rbl.msrbl.net
  • spam.spamrats.com

Internet Passwords 101

online security

One thing I am quite passionate about is security. With the amount of data I am entrusted with and the amount of online accounts I have to setup it is important to have a good system in place.

What I have found to be the best way to keep everything in order is to use a Google Spreadsheet to keep all passwords.

I have quite a lot of different spreadsheets for various groups of passwords e.g. FTP or Website credentials, social media accounts, personal websites etc.

The great thing about Google’s spreadsheets are that they are:

  • Perfect for collaboration with trusted team members.
  • Flexible as I can access them from anywhere with internet access.
  • Secure.

A hacker would have to be able to first determine which Google account these passwords were saved on, and possibly reset my password to be able to gain access. I would be notified if the password was changed.

Now my standard business spreadsheets consists of about 5 rows.

  • Client – To be able to find the info I need as quickly as possible.
  • Type of login – FTP, cPanel, WordPress etc.
  • URL – What the URL or IP is to gain access
  • Username.
  • Password
  • Additional Info – Notes that may help me remember things about this login.

I am starting to use a password generator to make the credentials as secure as possible when I create logins to avoid any simple passwords like qwerty123 etc.

Some would say it is quite foolish to publish this information online, but I am that confident of my methods that I will sleep tonight knowing my data is secure.

Hopefully this post will help someone else that is faced with a similar predicament. Using cloud based solutions such as Google Drive will help you in the event of a computer crash as your passwords will still be in the cloud, not just on a spreadsheet on your PC.

Dumb people, Natural selection & Social Media

220px-Charles_Darwin_aged_51[1]

Charles Darwin who’s works make up what “Natural Selection” means today.

I have always been a strong believer of natural selection – the concept that stupid people will kill themselves off in the most stupid ways leaving only the strong of body & mind.

Yes, this happens daily, however it seems as if the world is still getting stupider! Like the 2006 movie Idiocracy, it’s like the stupid gene is the more dominant gene being passed on.

The smart people people are holding off on having kids in a tough economical climate and the stupids are breeding like crazy!

You know the ones I am talking about. The people that had another kid to take advantage of the baby bonus to go out and get that new Playstation or Xbox.

But is the world actually getting dumber? Or is it just more in our faces due to the advancements in social media?

People do dumb things everyday, right? But nowadays it’s the norm to post it as a status update (Refer to image below)!

dumb-people-social-media

 

So back to natural selection, surely this poor girl would have starved to death on the escalator had the power not come back on?

In the cave man days only the strong survived. These days we have idiot-proofed virtually everything to the point that we have a seemingly everlasting supply of morons filling the streets.

You may not agree with my opinions, but I recommend you check out Idiocracy. It’s a funny movie about how the future could turn out!

The new Samsung Galaxy S4

samsung-galaxy-s4

Recently I got myself a new Samsung Galaxy S4 and thought I should definitely write up a post on some of the awesome features it has. It’s a massive step up from my old Samsung Galaxy S2.

I was also interested to know that my old phone still had some value through Bounce Mobile, who are a cash for old mobile phone service.

But back to the S4.

The S4 has a much improved operating system including Google Now. If privacy is your thing, then you will probably hate Google Now, but I love it! It creates cards based on the information it finds out about you (mainly from your search history). E.g. I was looking up a friends dog washing service website on my laptop and 10 minutes later I noticed a card on Google Now showing I was only 37 minutes away from the dog washing business. It also tells me the time to and from work, the weather and other day to day stuff. Talk about a smart smart phone!

One other feature I have found (and love) is the alarm widget. It actually wakes me up with relevant information from my Google Calendar and my favourite sports news.

The internet speed is awesome, an upgrade from 3G to 4G. To start with I didn’t notice much difference, but it seems there is much more 4G coverage lately.

If you are a fan of Dropbox, then you will be impressed with the 48GB storage upgrade you will get with your new phone. Unfortunately it is only free for 2 years which is kind of sneaky way to get you hooked on to one of their plans.

The other WOW factor app of the Galaxy S4 is an app called WatchOn. It allows you to use your phone to change the channel of your television. Funny to do at your mates house … not so funny to do in the dying minutes of a football match at your local pub 🙁

Anyway, do yourself a favour and upgrade to the best phone on the market – the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Has internet marketing evolved into digital marketing?

ppcIn the past, a business would get their website up then look for a gun internet marketing genius (like myself) to get some traffic to the site.

Most web designers are completely useless when it comes to internet marketing. I hate it when I see design favored over functionality. Basic search engine optimization factors are often ignored completely!

But there has been a bit a bit of shift in the market over the last few years. With many web design & web development companies looking to offer their clients an ‘all in one’ solution.

Makes sense right? Why put in all the hard yards just to hand over all future marketing to another company?

digital marketingSavvy design agencies are now starting to re-brand themselves as a digital marketing agency to keep that extra slice of the pie. Offering new expanded services that include SEO, SEM and Social Media strategies to filter traffic through sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Internet Marketing, which is basically digital marketing without the design and development aspect has kind of been misunderstood in the past. Most people I talk to about it walk away with a more confused look on their face than they begin with.

There is so much more to internet marketing that can often be overlooked. People understand that getting traffic is great, but not all traffic can be good. The wrong kinds of traffic can leave your site with a poor bounce rate and low conversions.

So all that being said, I think there is still a place for internet marketers and digital marketers. Especially with new technology such as tablets & smart phones being available. Being a digital marketing expert is a more diverse field but one that embraces change rather than getting left behind.

Fun with Vectors

Today, among other things, I have been playing around with some incredible new vector image software.

Getting some cool results. Here is some before and afters to show just how great some of them come up. Click to enlarge these images to see the difference.

star_trek_the_original_series[1]

Star Trek Original … Original

star-trek

Star Trek – Vector

Want to see more? Here are a few others vectors in SVG format on my business blog.

Think like a search engine …

I had a client over today who is new to the whole website scene, looking to market a new product he has designed. It is a portable camping shower designed for Australians.

Of course he went out and purchased the domain name, but after talking to him further he was quite interested in my advice for additional domain names.

While many would argue that keyword domain names are not as potent since Google rolled out it’s “Exact match Domain” update. They are still much better at getting results than domains with out keywords.

What do your visitors type to find you?

Say you don’t yet have a website and only a vague guess at best on what people would search to find you. Luckily Google has a keyword tool that you can use to find data for your location. For my client we found that three search terms had around 3,600 local (Australian) searches per month. These three had obviously been bundled together by Google, deemed so similar that that they share the same data. These three search terms were:

  1. shower for camping
  2. camping shower
  3. shower camping

However, using another awesome Google tool, Google trends, we can break this data down even more. In fact it showed that “shower for camping” had actually a very low volume of searches in the last 12 months. Camping shower had the most, but not by much.

Google Trends data

Click image to enlarge.

My client was shocked just how many people actually search for “shower camping”. The reason this is so, is due to the way the search engine has evolved over the last few years.

Predictive searches have changed the way people search. No longer do people search for structured key phrases such as shower for camping they are typing before thinking!

The searcher knows they want a shower and types that in, but doesn’t see any instant results that have to do with camping, so they add that word and then are greeted with Google’s top 10 results for “shower camping”. It is worth noting that these 10 results vary slightly to the 10 results for “camping shower”.

What does this mean to you?

It means you can better place your website in the search engines by structuring your content and links to your website. For example, you could write up and article using those keywords in a sentence like “The words hot shower, camping and Australia are rarely used in the same sentence. However, with the innovative Oppi portable shower you can now go camping and have the luxury of a hot shower on the go“.

My client went ahead and purchased www.showercamping.com which I think will have a much more instant effect in the search engines over his brand name domain.

Pinterest Clone

Looking about for various Pinterest clones on the web for SEO purposes.

How does this work? Well, say I post an image on my blog:

beard etiquette

By adding it to a board on Pinterest I am getting a great back link. These links don’t pass on any pagerank but if you get a great image up and it gets shared around that can really boost your chances of getting exposure for your website.

So what are some other pinterest like sites to maximise exposure?

These are many niched sites out there. One of my favourites is Gentlemint (Pinterest for blokes).

I also setup my own Pinterest clone from a script I purchased online called Bleep It. It is a PHP MySQL run site which is fairly similar to Pinterest but has a couple of bugs and customisations that I still need to sort out.