Mozilla Firefox 9 – one of the best alternative web browser for Mac and Windows

I remember the big Microsoft Antitrust Trial and shake up back in the 1990′s. Everyone got their undies in a bunch because it was thought Microsoft making and integrating their own internet browser into Windows created problems for other browser vendors, some of whom tried to sell their browser rather than give it away. Thankfully, we’re well beyond all that, and end user choices – good ones – remain available. This is one of the reasons why I really like Mozilla Firefox, and it’s available for both Mac and Windows.

Mozilla Firefox is an advanced web browser, based on the Mozilla Open Source project. It’s got multiplatform support and a great many features that make it a great choice for the default browser on a computer near you. Chief among those is its advanced, efficient interface.

With Firefox, you can get to your sites quickly, even if you can’t remember the URL’s. Its Awesome Bar allows you to type a search term within it, and the autocomplete function will include possible matches from your browsing history, bookmarked sites and open tabs. Its adaptive technology learns your browsing habits over time, and will continue to offer better fitting matches the more that you use it.

Above the Awesome Bar, Firefox supports tabbed browsing; making it easier to focus on the content of the sites you visit. You can browse multiple sites at once, simply and easily. Each site appears as a new tab within the current browser window and can be accessed in one click. If you use browser based apps, like Gmail or MS Office 365, you can take these sites off the tab bar and give them a permanent home in your browser.

There is a great deal of information on the internet and Firefox makes it easy for you to find what you’re looking for. Its Integrated Web Search makes searching for information easy. The search box, located just to the right of your location bar allows you to select the service of your choice and enter your search terms into the box. The box width is even adjustable if you need more space. As soon as you start typing in the search bar, it will prompt you with a drop down of filled-in suggestions. You can also use the search bar as a calculator, converter and more.

Read full review | Download Firefox 9 for WindowsDownload Firefox 9 for Mac

 

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Today is the day when the Internet goes on strike against SOPA

January 18th – A day we’ll remember. Thousands of sites went dark to protest against SOPA and PIPA, two US bills racing through Congress that threaten prosperity, online security, and freedom of expression. Sites are striking in all different ways, for example, Google censored its own logo and Wikipedia decided to bring out drastic measures in the fight, as they make the website unavailable for 24 hours in protest against the bill.

One thing is clear, if the bill will pass, the Internet will never be the same and it will affect everyone around the world, not only the people of US, by blocking site’s web traffic, ad traffic and search traffic using the same website censorship methods used by China, Iran and Syria. All websites both inside and outside the US could be blocked based on an infringement claim and website based on user-generated content like YouTube and Reddit could be really effected.

By clicking Google’s logo or the link just under the logo takes you to a SOPA / PIPA landing page that displays these words:

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.

The page gives you the option to sign a petition against the legislation, and I hope you will!

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

You can also declare your opposition to it via a PIPA petition website

To find out more information about SOPA, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

 

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Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 3

Last time (read article Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus, Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2), I spelled out what Google was doing with Android. Today, I’m going to wrap it up and bring it home, providing a recommendation that I hope Google will listen to.  Unfortunately, given their track record, I’m not getting my hopes up. Unfortunately, neither should you.

Android is attacking the market en masse. It’s the only way the fragmented OS is capturing share. Its lack of focus provides for a quick product introduction cycle by its 3rd party supporters. For example,

T-Mobile USA currently offers 16 Android smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.
AT&T offers 22 Android smartphones from 7 different manufacturers.
Verizon offers 34 smartphones from 6 different manufacturers.

Most of these phones are either running FroYo (Android 2.2.x), or Gingerbread (Android 2.3.x). Very few of them will run or officially support Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.x). Each manufacturer has added their own launcher and customizations on top of the OS. Nearly all have provided customized versions of some system level apps or components, originally developed by Google.  This has unfortunately created a bigger divide between stock Android and what end users actually use on their devices.

What does this mean, exactly?  In many cases, Google provides the shell and relies on the 3rd party developer to complete the structure. Until recently, and by recently I mean the last 12-18 months, Google resisted the development of an ecosystem. It provided an operating system that would allow users to organize their lives, communicate with the outside world, run apps, listen to music, watch video and read books.  However, it failed to provide a way for users to purchase, organize and manage that content on those devices. Their philosophy – we provide the means, YOU (meaning the hardware OEM or 3rd party developer) provide the way. In the process they’ve lost out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and royalties.

It finally recognized this when it introduced Google Music.  From there, you could buy and then stream music directly to your Android phone.  It also modified its Android Market allowing for the sale of not only music, but books, movies as well the standard and familiar device apps.  Music purchased there could be copied to your device and your PC and then synchronized with Google Music’s online music locker.

While this signifies a move in the proper direction, not only for Google and its partners, but for users as well, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Google needs to further lock down the platform – hardware manufacturers and OEM’s shouldn’t be allowed to have devices with up to three different revisions of the OS in active support at the same time, and shouldn’t be allowed to introduce new products with outdated OS revisions, as they have in the past.

Google is developing focus, but it’s taken approximately 4 years to get here. Frankly, I think Google’s gotten very lucky. Hopefully, they’ve seen the error of their ways, have seen the success their major competitors have in their own ecosystems, and continue to stay focused.

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AT&T-Mo – I Love you, but I’m not IN Love with You

AT&T has finally admitted defeat in its proposed $39B USD takeover of GSM rival, T-Mobile USA. So… NOW what?

I saw the news a few weeks ago and part of me was both relieved and sad.  AT&T has given up on consummating its proposed $39B USD takeover of GSM rival, T-Mobile USA. So the big question left for us Monday Morning Quarter backs is simple – Now what?

In their announcement, AT&T chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, indicates that the transaction was about spectrum and capacity – meaning that AT&T can’t meet the needs of its customers without the ability to add additional capacity to their network.  They need wireless spectrum to satisfy the needs of their LTE rollout while still keeping their EDGE, UMTS and HPSA/HPSA+ networks functioning. Now that they’ve dropped the transaction they owe Deutsche Telekom a great deal of money and, interestingly enough, wireless spectrum.  In a press released late in the afternoon on December 19th, Stephenson states,

“To reflect the break-up considerations due Deutsche Telekom, AT&T will recognize a pretax accounting charge of $4 billion in the 4th quarter of 2011.  Additionally, AT&T will enter a mutually beneficial roaming agreement with Deutsche Telekom.”

What I’m most interested in is the “mutually beneficial roaming agreement.”  There’s no additional information on this at this time. I can find no details on the agreement or what this means to either AT&T or T-Mobile USA.  If it means that T-Mo users will have access to AT&T’s 3G network and vice-versa, that…would be awesome. That could enable 3G speeds on all unlocked iPhones on T-Mo.  It could provide AT&T customers with additional stability (meaning less dropped calls) …but without the details on the roaming agreement, this is really speculation at best.

It’s also been reported that T-Mobile has been refarming some of their spectrum and networks in Utah, Nevada, and Northern California to use the 1900mHz band for 3G.  Even in these areas, it’s not wide spread, and in small pockets.  However, unlocked iPhones (as well as other unlocked phones that make use of the 1900mHz band) in those areas are getting 3G speeds, on T-Mobile.  One can only hope that they do more of this, and perhaps arrange the AT&T roaming agreement to enable this, in larger areas.

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Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus

I’ve been watching Google over the past few years and they have one major problem – focus.

Google has a lot to look forward this year – a reincarnation of GoogleTV, Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich, the LTE capable Galaxy Nexus, the list goes on and on really. Its clear, the company is moving and shaking. However, they have one big problem in my opinion – they lack consistent, company-wide focus.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Google introduce a number of different products. It seems that they are GREAT at introducing ideas, but in my opinion, don’t spend enough time developing a clear strategy for each one. The following are a few of their more notable disasters.


Google Buzz
Buzz was Google’s first foray into social networking. Buzz was supposed to take on both Facebook and Twitter. It was received with a great deal of anger and frustration, as no one seemed to understand why Google bothered to create and introduce the service. As a result, failed miserably.


Google Wave
Wave was Google’s attempt to bring email, instant messaging and social networking together. It made a bit of a splash, but exited as less than a ripple. It was overly complicated and competed directly with Gmail, Google’s flagship, non-search related product.


Google Desktop Search
It did what you might think – helped you index and search through all of your local content.


Google is great at introducing and then retiring a great many products. Also of note, Google Gears, Google Video and Google Pages. All of these things were introduced with a great deal of fanfare, were adopted to a varying degree of success and penetration, and then either abandoned, ignored or half-heartedly supported as the public struggled with finishing the product’s definition (what it was supposed to do) and direction (where the product would eventually go).

Come back next time and we’ll address Google’s most successful product to date and try to figure out exactly what and where Google wants to take it.

read Google’s Biggest Problem – Focus Part 2

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Norton Internet Security 2012 – one of the best security suites available today against online threats

You’re gonna hear me say this a lot here. Soft32 is serious about security software, and keeping your computer safe from malware. All of our downloads are certified malware free, and you’re going to hear us talk up anti-malware and Internet suites quite a bit. Case in point – Norton and Symantec are synonymous with security and safe computing. This is why we love it for both on Windows and Mac machines.

Norton Internet Security for Windows runs on Windows XP SP 2 or later, Windows Vista SP 1 or later and Windows 7. The Mac versions runs on OS X 10.4.11 to 10.7; and it includes versions 4.x and 5.x so it runs on both Intel and PPC based Macs. Version 5.x is for Intel multi-core processors only. If you have an early Intel based Mac or a PowerPC based Mac, then Version 4 is for you. However, both will provide you with advanced security options and will protect your home network and your data from malware.

NIS protects you while you surf with Norton Safe Web. It proactively protects you while you surf by identifying and blocking unsafe and fake websites right in your search results. However, this feature requires Mac OS X 10.7 if you’re a Mac user. Its anti-phishing technology blocks fraudulent phishing websites trying to steal your identity and your money. Its Smart Two-Way Firewall prevents cybercriminals from hacking into your machine, and from stealing your personal information and messing with your data.

The best thing about NIS is that its location aware. It lets you adjust your level of protection depending upon where you’re using your Mac.  It has settings for at home, the office, the local coffee shop, on the road, etc.

Read full review | Download Norton Internet Security 2012

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Indispensable tool for the active Internet user: Kaspersky Password Manager

You know… its all about the Internet these days. This website, the other web service, and this or that social network – if you don’t have some kind of online presence, you’re likely the type who doesn’t compute much.

However, most of the people that I know – geeks and noobies alike – are all over the Internet. It’s a vast and dangerous place. That’s why I’m thankful for tools like Kaspersky Password Manager. It’s a security and system utility for Windows.

Kaspersky Password Manager is the latest in advanced, digital identity protection. It provides multiple layers of defense against keyloggers and hackers. You only have to remember one master password, and all of your log-ins for your applications, websites and services are completed automatically entered for you when called for.

Kaspersky Password Manager securely stores your passwords and other, related personal data in an encrypted vault on your computer. The vault can only be accessed by a master password or other, supported authentication method that you define, ensuring that your passwords are always safe. KPM fills in logins and passwords automatically; and It supports major browsers, including IE and Firefox, as well as your important Windows applications. You no longer have to remember all of your usernames and their associated passwords – just one master password.

Read full review | Download Kaspersky Password Manager

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Streaming vs. Download – What Happens when the Cloud Evaporates?

It’s all well and good until the darn cloud is gone…so which is better, streaming or downloading?

The cloud is a wonderful thing, and it can mean and be many different things to many different people.  However, no matter what it is, no matter what it does, the cloud has one big problem.  Users must rely on the internet to get access to it and its resources.

This means different things to different people, depending on your location.  In Europe, with the requirement for ubiquitous 3G coverage throughout the European Union, and with high speed internet coming from cable and satellite providers, people can get access to the cloud and its technology from just about anywhere.  In the US, it’s a little different.

There are still many states that are without complete 3G coverage and, in some cases, without broadband internet.  The problem with all of this is that many new and soon to launch services, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and iCloud rely on internet access to provide the service.  Slower speed services like dial-up, DSL/ADSL and EDGE don’t handle the download requirements well, and performance of these services over these slower access services, is poor. So, there’s a problem with these streaming services when service is inconsistent.

When service simply stops – i.e. when your network connection is totally interrupted via a power outage or a service outage, when the cloud evaporates – there’s a huge problem.  There is no service.  Without a local copy of whatever resources you’re trying to access, you’re out of luck.

Services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Amazon Prime – those that rely on streaming for service delivery (with or without any kind of local cached data) – aren’t functional when network service is interrupted.  Services like iCloud, which run through iTunes and may have a complete, local copy of the content you are trying to enjoy, may be better, provided they switch to the local copy if communication with the host service is interrupted.  At the very least, you could restart the media and fast forward the audio or video on the local copy to the point you were at on the streamed copy provided you can put your hands on it.

The problem is consistent, high speed network access and the fact that it isn’t available everywhere, all the time.  The problem is also storage space on your PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet.  SD & HD video can often vary in size from about 1GB to 4GB.  When many smartphones and tablets often have 8GB to 16GB of storage to start, it makes it hard to store a complete movie or TV show on your device. If you do, you run the risk of running out of needed space for mail, pictures or other items.

The bottom line is this – until internet access reaches utility status (like water or electricity), users are going to have to choose between using your internet access and streaming content to where ever you are, or carrying it with you. If you stream and you bump into a connectivity problem, you won’t get your content. If you store locally and need space later, you may not be able to add content (like pictures) on the fly.  You’re going to have to be willing to choose one or the other and be aware of its limitations.

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