Free Antivirus for iOS

iOS antivirus is a new concept to me. However, as one of the top two mobile operating systems it is inevitable that it will be targeted by malware and viruses.  No matter how remote the prospect of an infection might seem it is always better to err on the side of caution and defend in depth.

Remember to protect both you iPhone and iPad.

There are other companies that make antivirus apps for a fee but I’m focusing here on the free stuff by reputable firms.

 

Avira – Free antivirus. German firm that has a good reputation.

Lookout – Free for iPhone. Reputable company.  I do not know if this will also work on iPad.

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4 Free Office Suites for Your Computer

Below are a list of free replacements for the expensive Microsoft Office suite. W = Windows, M= Mac, L=Linux.

LibreOffice – W, M, L. A fork of OpenOffice. This is the office suite that comes with many linux distros. It can read/write most MSOffice formats. Contains 6 apps. Considered the most actively updated suite. I use this on my Linux computers.

OpenOffice – W, M, L. A solid 6 app office suite. Well supported, even IBM contributes code to this project.

NeoOffice – M only. A Mac OS X only office suite. 3 apps – spreadsheet, word processor and presentation. More Mac-centric interface. I still use this on my Mac. Mac installer.

Calligra Suite – W, M, L. Linux is the best supported port. Count’em, 8 apps in one suite! Office apps, graphics app, and project managment app. I have not tried this.  Don’t let that dissuade you, since it is free download it and give it a spin.

A lot of people think they are stuck with the high cost of MSOffice, or they think they have to stick with Windows or Mac OS X because that is what MSOffics runs on.  Well you can use any OS and have a free high powered, full featured office suite no matter what.

 

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Secure Browsers for Windows

Honestly, the OS (operating system) probably matters more than your browser for security. Windows is hard to secure and you would be better off running Linux or Apple OS X if you want security.

There are two things you need to look at for browser security: 1. how good is it at keeping out bad guys and malware; 2. is the browser phoning home private information about you to it’s maker or some third party, where that info becomes a temptation for governments on fishing expeditions.

Here are my choices for relatively secure Windows browsers:

Comodo Dragon – I like this better than Google Chrome. It is very similar to Chrome but does not phone home to Google. This is basically Chrome without Google looking over your shoulder.

Ice Dragon – also by Comodo. This is Comodo’s security enhanced version of Firefox, and allows you to use Firefox extensions.

Epic Privacy Browser – (available for Windows and Mac) I will refer you to the website to explain what Epic does to protect your privacy. No system is bullet proof but this is a step in the right direction.

Opera – my old standby.

Note: All browsers can be made more secure by turning Java script off.

No browser is 100% secure. With Windows always use an anti-virus program to protect your computer.

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Secure and Private Search Engines

Privacy is now a major concern for web searchers.  Here are three web search engines that are about as secure as anything gets on the WWW.  All three provide security First, by letting your enter your search query on a secure server (SSL) and Second, by keeping no record log of you or your search.  Therefore there is no data about you or your queries to subpoena or steal.

 

DuckDuckGo – American company, mainly uses Bing to provide search data but also collects it’s own data then remixes.  Results are quite good for everyday use.  This is my preferred search engine. IOS and Android mobile app available.

Start Page – Dutch owned site.  Uses plain vanilla feed from Google, so you are getting Google results without geo-location (local) adjustments and without any personalization. Quite good. IOS and Android mobile app available.

Ixquick – Dutch owned site by the same people that own Start Page. This is a meta-search engine: it queries several search engines, compares the results, and the more search engines that agree on the ranking of a web page the higher it appears in the search results. IOS mobile app available.

Keep in mind that major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are gathering as much information as they can about you and what you like to search for.   With that information they custom craft the search results you see.  The three secure searches above are recording no data about you so there is nothing that can be used against you.

 

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Finding Free Ebooks and Textbooks

Everybody likes to get something free.  Here are some good sources for free and legal ebooks on the internet.

 

Free Ebooks for Kindle:

Amazon has new Kindle ebooks that are available for free for one or two days.  Not surprisingly, some enterprising souls have started blogs to point out the free Kindle books each day.  Here are two that I like:

Ereader News Today – I follow this on my Facebook feed each day and I have gotten lots of great books for free.

Pixel of Ink – Another outstanding free Kindle book blog.

 

Free Ebook Archives:

There are a heck of a lot of free ebooks, both fiction and non-fiction that were published before 1923 and are therefore in the public domain.  Below are several good archives for these ebooks.

Feedbooks – Feedbooks has books for sale, but they also have quite a few free public domain and self published ebooks.

Project Gutenberg – 39,000 books. All are free and had been previously published by established publishers.

Manybooks.net – 29,000 books. Back when I carried a Palm PDA this was my favorite archive for ebooks. Because it can convert your ebook to so many formats this is a very handy archive for those who have either a Kindle or some other ereader which may use a different format.

 

Free Textbooks:

Text Books for Free –  Links to a lot of free textbooks.

Wikibooks –  Free, community edited textbooks from the makers of Wikipedia.

 

Miscellaneous:

Text Archive at Archive.org –  While not the most user friendly site in the world, Archive.org has a lot of ebooks, textbooks and documents.  You just have to dig for them.

Calibre (free software) –  Calibre is management software for your ebook library.  It helps you search and sort your ebooks, convert them to different formats, sync ebooks to your devices, and more.  Very handy to have once your collection grows.  Ebook readers and ebook file formats come and go and Calibre can keep your entire elibrary readable over the long haul.

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Free Antivirus for Android

Android smartphones have become so popular that the badguys are now gunning for them with viruses and malware.  There is a lot of debate as to how effective antivirus programs really are for Android. My feeling is that half a shield is better than no shield.

Surprisingly, much of the malware for Android comes from malicious apps users download right from the Android app store.  Your best line of defense is to stick with official apps from known, reputable firms.

Free Android Antivirus:

AVG –  I used this on the Android phone I had for about 6 months.  It always worked in the background but it showed up in the notification bar that it checked each download.  I never had a problem with it.  They make an Android tablet version that is worth checking out.  Your tablet should be protected too.

Avast! –  A reputable firm. I have no experience with this product.

Lookout –  I have not used this product. But since other firms compare themselves to Lookout that gives them some credibility.

Avira – German. Free.

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Free Antivirus for the Mac

The bad guys are starting to target Apple Macintosh computers running OS X.  As of this writing, I am not yet convinced that the average Mac user need pay for AV protection.  However, I would not run my Mac today without having at least a free antivirus program on it.

WARNING: Be aware that there are Mac trojans masquerading as virus scanners!

Here are some free AV programs for the Mac from trustworthy companies:

1. Avast! Free anti-virus for Mac –  I have not used it but Avast’s Windows AV is excellent. Good company.

2. Comodo anti-virus for Mac – has a good reputation.

3. ClamXav –  a Mac version of the Win. open source antivirus program.  This has been around for years and is gaining in popularity.

4. Sophos Free –  Sophos has a pretty good reputation and they are a reliable company.

5. Avira – German, Free.

So what about your personal recommendation?  I currently use iAntivirus free from PC Tools on my Macs, however as I write this  they have a “Coming Soon” blocking page up for a new version so I cannot recommend it until I see it.

Note: there are many paid antivirus programs from many reputable companies available.  Most are expensive to buy and renew.  I have used several paid programs and had trouble removing them after they had expired which is something very unusual for software running on Mac OS X. Personally, I would try one of the above, free programs first.

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Free Antivirus Programs for Windows

Most new computers come with a limited free trial of either Norton or MacAfee anti-virus programs. In my experience these market leaders have become bloated and rather expensive.  You can get excellent AV protection for free.

You must protect your PC!

WARNING: There are many websites distributing free antivirus programs that are actually malware and/or spyware!  The AV programs I have listed below are ones that are legitimate.

Here are a few good free anti-virus programs for Windows computers.

1. AVG Free Edition –  This is my favorite of all the free AV programs.  I have used this for years and currently have it running on my Win 7 desktop media center.  I think the paid version is slightly better but the free version is excellent.

2. Avast! – I have used the free edition and I know others who have been very satisfied with it. Avast free always tells you what it is doing. While this is reassuring it can also be a bit intrusive. I suspect the paid versions are quiter and more in the background. It’s not quite nag-ware but you know it is there.  Still very good AV protection.

3. Avira – I hear it works but I have not used it.

4.  ClamAV – This is the open source AV engine for Windows.

5. PC Tools Antivirus Free – I have not used the PC version of PC Tools AV, but I do use their Macintosh OS X version so I know they are legit.

6. Comodo AntiVirus – has a good reputation.

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Best News Sites as Alternatives to the Network News

You want to know what is really going on?  Are you tired of the drivel that passes for news from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN?

Unfortunately, most of the remaining “good” news sources come from outside the USA. Each has their own unique view of their region, the world and the US.  I have omitted any that I have found to be propaganda arms of national governments or corporations.

Note that I have also omitted AP (Associated Press), partly because you will find AP news everywhere here in America. With the death of UPI years ago it left AP as the only news wire in the US creating a mono-culture which I think is unhealthy.

One thing that you will notice when reading, watching or listening to foreign news sources is that many of the things that we think are happening only in the USA are also happening in other places too.  Over time you come to realize that these are human problems and, conditions of humanity, not just things that are unique only to America.  While I do not wish bad things on anyone, there is some odd comfort in knowing we are not alone.

Well here is a list of the best free news sources that I am familiar with.

AFP – A French news wire service. They really do not have news on their website, but you can subscribe to them on Facebook or Twitter for news updates, or get one of the AFP news apps for iOS or Android.  AFP mobile website is here.

Al Jazeera – covers US news and World News with the best coverage of the Middle East and the Islamic world (a huge area.)  I was skeptical of Al Jazeera initially, but after watching it on TV I have found it to be much more extensive and balanced than most American news coverage.

Australian Broadcasting Co. – ABC.net.au is the Australian equivalent of the BBC, that is the national radio and television service.  The Asian Pacific region is a hard area for Americans to get a handle on but the Aussies know it well.

BBC – The British Broadcasting Corporation.  Radio, television, Internet the BBC is one of the most extensive world wide sources of news and entertainment.  They actually had to cut back on their news website because commercially owned news sites were complaining about the competition. Remember the British had the largest empire in the history of the world: they still have bureaus and correspondents covering most of their former colonies.  Track down the BBC app for your mobile device or tablet, it is worth having.

Daily Telegraph – Since The Times (of London) and The New York Times, went behind pay walls, the Daily Telegraph has become my favorite online newspaper.  I value it for it’s coverage of the UK, Europe and the US.  I am not sure how long these online newspapers can continue to offer free editions so enjoy it now while you can.

DW – Germany is the powerhouse of Europe. Fortunately they provide wonderful news and cultural programing at DW.  DW covers Germany central Europe and good coverage of Eastern Europe including Russia. Excellent.

France 24 – TV news in English, 24/7.  France 24 has one of my favorite 10 minute news streams, plus cultural, business and other news. They have great iOS apps and a decent Android app.

Guardian – My second most favorite paper. Guardian has two editions: a US edition with US news up front and a UK edition.  Somehow the Guardian does cultural news, book reviews and the like better than the rest.

The Independent – another UK based newspaper worth reading.

NHK – NHK is sort of the Japanese PBS. It’s good. Excellent if dry news. NHK helps you understand what is going on in the Pacific Rim, Japan and China without propaganda.  Lots of other programming about Japan. Highly recommended.

NPR – America’s own National Public Radio. Some of the best radio news programing being produced today. People, in certain quarters, like to complain about NPR, but I think that is because NPR does not just say what they want to hear. Commercial radio news has gone down the tube but NPR has maintained it’s quality. Most mobile systems have an NPR app that lets you listed to free podcasts of NPR programs.

Paper.li – You have heard about Twitter as a source of news and breaking news? Well sometimes you cannot sit there watching your Twitter feed all day but with Paper.li you can craft your own topical or regional newspaper formed of Tweets formed by subject, #hashtag or lists. Or find a paper created by another and subscribe. You don’t have to be a Twitter member to get a benefit from Twitter with Paper.li

Reuters – Reuters focus is on business news, but it contains a lot of world news too.  Good source.

Speigel – Updated weekly. German. Has some good articles and news analysis.

Finally, check out your own local newspaper or local NPR or PBS-TV station, because what is going on in your own town is also important to you.

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7 Best Search Engines

I have compiled a short list of seven search engines that I think are worth using and I try to tell you why below.

I use different default search engines on different devices.

Smartphone: I use Google.  Google integrates GPS for local search and maps better than the rest.

iPad: I use Bing. Bing still has local search plus decent web and news search.

HP Touchpad: this is my stay at home tablet so I’m more interested in straight web search, not local or mobile search. I use Blekko. That could change but for now Blekko is holding it’s own for general use.  If I need a second opinion I use Startpage (see below.)

Laptop: This is where the work gets done.  My default is DuckDuckGo because of privacy.  If I need a second opinion I generally use Startpage.

Bing – The second largest search engine in size and users.  Pretty good for both mobile and desktop use.

Blekko – Blekko deserves mention because it maintains it’s own unique database of web pages. Not a bad engine for everyday desktop use.

DuckDuckGo – DDG is a hybrid search engine which gets it’s database from several sources (including Bing) but then uses it’s own algorithm to render its own unique result.  DDG’s big strength is privacy in that it never tracks what you are searching for nor does it keep a record of your searches.  Over time this can be a profound advantage. Very few ads and nice clean interface. Recommended for desktop use.

Gigablast – Gigablast maintains it’s own database of the web using it’s own spider.  I’m not convinced one can use Gigablast on it’s own for daily searching, but it is a valuable addition to many metasearch engines. Gigablast is often useful in digging up a good web page that Google or Bing somehow miss so it is useful for research.

Google – Google has pretty much become the gatekeeper for the web.  No other search engine has indexed more pages and can retrieve them than Google.  In addition Google offers a well done mobile version which is probably second to none.

With all that going for it, why would you use any other search engine?  Problem 1. Privacy.  Google tracks just about everything you do on the web either by it’s search engine, of it’s huge ad network or by social media. Over time they develop a pretty elaborate profile of  you.  Problem 2. Personalized results. One of the things Google does is use the data profile of users to change the search results each user sees when they search.  That means that you are not seeing the same result for “science fiction” that your neighbor is seeing.  In other words, Google is showing you what it thinks you want to see, rather than an objective returning the best quality search result.  It is a bit like being advised by a yes man who tells you only what you want to hear. I expect this to get more pronounced over time. Librarians and researchers in particular should beware of this.

Ixquick* – Ixquick is a metasearch engine good for general desktop use.  It gives good broad search returns and is useful for getting a general overview of web pages on a given topic.

Startpage * – Startpage uses Google, without the personalization and without the privacy concerns (see “Google” above). Desktop web search this is very handy.  If you are happy with Google, but worried about privacy give Startpage a try.

*These search engines do not have their own database but use the database of other search engines.

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