Bringing you Nervous Music since October 2003



seanmcg's My


I am seanmcg on and you can add me to your network.



Muxtape 2

"When New York Was New York"

Get Songbird



A random selection from my archive:



Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives


My Wishlist

Moment of Zen


Moment of Zen (inspired by Tim's Koans)

Courtesy of Timmay

Blog posts are no longer happening here. Visit for the latest updates.

    follow me on Twitter

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    Get your computer ducks in a row

    A few months ago I posted a popular checklist to help boost the security of Windows. The list included software to combat viruses, spyware, malware, adware, tupperware and the like. At the time I hadn't tried much of them except for Firefox. But lately I've cleaned up my machine quite a bit. Originally I was looking to free up some hard drive space but it led me to tighten up security too.

    So I have a few personal thoughts on some of the checklist items to serve as a reminder that it's never a bad time to give your PC some TLC.

    FIREWALL: ZoneAlarm - I'm impressed with this firewall software from Zone Labs. It's very easy to install, and is much less obtrusive (and takes up much less space) than Norton's Personal Firewall. It's a cinch to configure. I have a home network here and sharing files and connecting to the shared printer was simple. What I like most about ZoneAlarm are the prompts you'll receive each time something's trying to reach out to the internet. You can Allow/Deny, with a feature to "remember" so you set it once, and it's done. ZoneAlarm is FREE for individual use and can be downloaded from Zone Labs's Download Site.

    ANTI-VIRUS: TrendMicro PC-cillin - OK, it's an awful name, but I actually like this antivirus solution more than the checklist's recommended Nod32. I had some difficulty keeping a steady internet connection with Nod32 and there were some configuration issues. So I switched to TrendMicro and I fully recommend it over Norton Antivirus and McAfee's VirusScan. It's less bulky and according to numerous match-ups, TrendMicro is actually more comprehensive in both virus definitions and how it scans your files. PC-cillin has a free 30-day trial version and the full licensed version is available for $49.95 -- same price as the competition.

    ANTI-HIJACK: WinPatrol - This little guy is a great utility that's completely inconspicuous. The software is primarily an interface that allows you to tweak your startup items, scheduled tasks, services, and programs associated with file types. I love it just for that. However it does actively prompt you if software attempts to insert itself in your startup repertoire, and it successfully blocks cookies with certain keywords. WinPatrol is a FREE download and can be grabbed from the BillP Studios' Download Site.

    AD BLOCKER: Ad Muncher - Of all the little utilities listed here, Ad Muncher is the one I'm most excited about. It detects advertisements in the form of pop-ups and embedded ads and will wipe them away. As a result, websites render more quickly and this is incredibly useful for non-high speed internet users. I was amazed that it even removed the interstitial ad I always encounter when visiting Ad Muncher is FREE and you can go grab it from their Download Site.

    ANTI-SPYWARE: AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy - The checklist recommends AdAware, but I'm adding Spybot to the list too. There are tons of anti-spyware tools out there, but I use these two the most. If you don't have them, go get them - AdAware is free and so is Spybot. You can't afford to let spyware build up on your computer. I run these cleaners weekly and it's a good habit to get into. Kinda like Saturday night's bath night.

    That's my roundup. If you have other recommendations, please drop them in the comments. I'd love to see what other people are using. The only thing I haven't tried on the original checklist is the Firebird email client. I'll probably be making that leap soon.

    I recommend all of the above products. I've been using all of them together for over a month and have not experienced any software conflicts or performance hits. There's no sense in waiting for a rainy day to install these tools. Give it a go now -- it takes just a few minutes, and most don't even require reboots. Clean things up and *quack* -- get your ducks in a row.