Quickly and easily create QR codes with this handy Windows utility

I know it’s likely coincidental, but I found out about QR codes shortly after I purchased my first Android phone, a Nexus One, about two years ago. Since then, I’ve been able to find QR codes on a number of different street level billboards in downtown Chicago, as well as in supermarkets and department stores around the country. Creating any kind of bar code used to be difficult, until Easy QR Maker for Windows hit the streets.

Easy QR Maker is a tool allowing you to encode and decode QR and barcodes and save to images of any size.  You can create QR Code, Data Matrix, PDF 417, Bookland/ISBN, Codabar, Code 11, Code 128, Code 128-A, Code 128-B, Code 128-C, Code 39, Code 39 Extended, Code 93, EAN-13, EAN-8, FIM, Interleaved 2 of 5, ITF-14, LOGMARS, MSI 2 Mod 10, MSI Mod 10, MSI Mod 11, PostNet, Standard 2 of 5, Telepen, UPC 2 Digit Ext., UPC 5 Digit Ext., UPC-A, and UPC-E codes.

The application supports decoding in UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-8, EAN-13, Code 39, Code 93, Code 128, QR Code, ITF, Codabar, RSS-14, Data Matrix, PDF 417, and Aztec formats.  You can even save codes to a number of different graphical formats including, Portable Network Graphics (PNG), Bitmap Image File (BMP), Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), Tagged Image File (TIFF).

Easy QR Maker is a decent application, but obviously has limited uses and application, especially from a consumer point of view. While the application is VERY affordable at $10 bucks, unless you’re in manufacturing, marketing or software development, this application is likely not going to be of much interest to you.  However, if you need a way to create bar codes, this one supports a great number of formats and is very easy to use.

download Easy QR Maker

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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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Internet Explorer New Auto-Update Plan

Microsoft Internet Explorer is one of the most established and popular web browsers, with more than one in five people globally choosing it to surf their favourite sites. While the software is no strange to updates and developments, Microsoft has announced one of the biggest changes in its setup to date which will come into effect from January 2012.

From next month, Internet Explorer (IE) will introduce automatic browser upgrades across PCs operating Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. According to the official Microsoft’s Ryan Gavin, users will automatically be upgraded to latest version of IE available for their systems, “to make sure that Windows customers have the most up-to-date and safest browsing experience possible”.

Why is Microsoft introducing automatic updates?

Currently, Microsoft issues Internet Explorer software changes on an opt-in basis, through the Windows Update service. This, however, means that many users are running old versions of the browser – after all, everyone is guilty of ignoring notifications now and then.

While some updates are introduced for aesthetic purposes or to make navigation easier, many are developed as patches to security vulnerabilities that have been identified. As a result, previous releases could leave users’ systems open to abuse. On the firm’s official blog, Gavin explained: “We want to make updating to the best protection possible as fast and simple as we can for Windows customers.” To achieve this, updates will be forcibly patched onto browsers from now on.

What versions of Windows will automatic updates be applied to?

All PC users running Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 will receive automatic updates for IE. Older Microsoft operating systems – including Windows 98 and Windows 2000 – will not be affected, as they are not capable of running the newer incarnations of IE. Windows XP users will be upgraded to IE8, while Windows Vista and Windows 7 users will be given IE9 – the most recent release.

How will the changes affect IE6 and IE7 usage?

IE6 was introduced in 2001 on Windows XP and can still be operated with the Service Pack 3 version of that operating. However, Microsoft no longer updates IE6 and has officially declared it “time to say goodbye” to the iconic software version, as it is incapable of running more developed coding.

IE7 was released in 2006 and is still available for download on operating systems up to and including Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Windows XP users who still use IE6 and IE7 will be upgraded to IE8, meaning usage will drop significantly. However, if customers have opted not to upgrade previously, they will not be subject to an automatic upgrade.

How will the changes be rolled out?

From January, customers in Australia and Brazil who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update will receive the new upgrading system. It will then gradually be extended to include users in other territories.

Microsoft says it recognises that businesses and organisations may have reasons for introducing browser updates at their own pace and, alongside the planned rollout, have introduced the IE8 and IE9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. In addition, all customers can uninstall updates retrospectively.

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Legacy Devices & Android 4 – Why your Ice Cream Sandwich is Gonna Melt

I’ve seen this over and over again – I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy.  Will I get the new upgraded OS for it when it’s released?

I remember back in the day when I had a Samsung i700 on Verizon Wireless here in the US.  Windows Mobile 2003 was about to come out, and the device was fairly new, and should have received the update for it fairly quickly. Samsung came out and stated that the device would get an update; but this was the early days of true smartphones – and apparently, the driver development wasn’t going well.

The device eventually got the upgrade that was promised, but it took Samsung over 18 months to deliver it.  Eighteen months…Eighteen months?!  Are you serious?  Yes, it was well into 2004 by the time the Samsung i700 WM 2003 upgrade was delivered.

Google just released the source code for the latest version of their Android 4.0, code named Ice Cream Sandwich. As such, Samsung, HTC and others are in the process of working on Android 4.0 powered devices. Some of their flagship devices, like Samsung’s Galaxy S II, and HTC Sensation 4G may or may not see some ICS love.

At the end of the day, kids…It’s up to the manufacturer or the carrier, not Google.

This is somewhat different than my experience with the i700 and Verizon.  While it took Samsung a while to get it together, Verizon also did a great deal of “testing” with the new OS before it released it.  While the OEM and the carrier are supposed to partner together to manufacture the device, in the end, the carrier has the final say.  They’re the ones you call when you have a problem – not Samsung…not HTC.  You call Verizon, AT&T…whomever you have your mobile contract with. In the end, they really don’t want you to upgrade, however. They want you to buy a new device.  Think about it…it’s part of how they make their money.

However, I know that both Samsung and HTC have already announced a starter list for devices that will definitely get ICS.  Those lists can be found at the manufacturer’s web site, and should be easily located, so if you’ve got a Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, etc. device and want to know if you’re going to get the upgrade, the best place to look is their home page.

If your device isn’t going to get an automatic upgrade, it’s not over. You can always root your phone and check out XDA Developers or CyanogenMOD.  More than likely, you’re going to be able to find a version of Ice Cream Sandwich that will meet your needs at either of those two sites.

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Create ad-hoc VPN’s and protect your internet activity with Hamachi

I hate trolls!
You know what I mean…those individuals that skulk around looking for an opportunity to tap into your network or file transmissions with the intent of stealing your sensitive information.  Those kinds of people just really bother me. Over and above the fact that mean people stink, what I send to another person or website is no one’s business but my own (and the other person designated as the information receiver). That’s why I really like applications like Hamachi. It’s a multiplatform secure networking tool that works for both Windows and Mac.

With Hamachi, you can create virtual private networks on-demand. LogMeIn’s Hamachi is a hosted VPN service that lets you securely extend LAN-like networks to distributed teams, mobile workers and your gamer friends alike, in minutes. With it, you can remotely network printers, cameras, gaming consoles and more, all on demand and all over the web.

When implemented, users are provided access to your network resources, from a centralized gateway, without modifying firewalls or network routers.  You can provide user access
to specific computers, printers, drives, etc. Hamachi also allows you to connect all of your network clients to each other.  You can quickly and easily create a simple, virtual, mesh network that allows remote machines to directly connect to each other, thereby giving users basic network access to all the network resources they need, all while using 256-bit SSL encryption, employing the same level of security as your bank, over both public and private networks.

read full review | download Hamachi

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Keep your private information private with East-Tec Eraser 2012

You know, eBay and Craig’s List are wonderful things. You can find all kinds of bargains there, and can usually sell things you either want or need to get rid of rather quickly. There great around the Holiday’s for quick cash and gift purchases; and computers are usually high traffic items that trade hands quickly.  The bad thing about used computers though is that hard drives can often retain data, even if you’ve already erased it. This is why I like tools like East-Tec Eraser.  It’s a hard drive security tool for Windows.

Getting rid of data on your hard drive isn’t always easy, but with East-Tec Eraser you can completely destroy information stored without your knowledge or approval, like your Internet history, web pages and pictures from sites you visited on the Internet, any unwanted cookies, and your chatroom conversations.  You can even get rid of deleted e-mail messages and attachments, temporary files, the Windows swap file, and the contents of your Recycle Bin, etc.

If you have (or had) sensitive information on your computer, and want or need to get rid of it and the tracks it leaves behind, don’t worry. East-Tec Eraser 2012 meets and exceeds government and industry standards for the permanent erasure of digital information, as well as Russian and German security standards; and industry standards like the Bruce Schneier Algorithm or the Peter Gutmann Method.

read full review | download East-Tec Eraser 2012

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