Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Google Drive Review (Windows)

So, the long awaited Google Drive has finally been released but unfortunately Google have decided not to release a Linux client yet. They do hint that a Linux client is in the making and will be along soon but with Google being such Linux advocates and using their own version of Ubuntu internally, I would have thought the Linux client would have been available on release.

On a positive note though, I used Google Apps for my emails and usually us Google Apps users have to wait a while longer to get new Google features but it's great to see that Google Drive is available for Google Apps users from the start.

So because there is no Linux client, I've powered up my Windows 7 install (for the first time in months) and after some time of running Windows updates etc I now have Google Drive installed and working on my Windows 7 box.

What is Google Drive?
Well, Google Drive is basically Googles answer to Dropbox or Ubuntu One (U1) - it syncs files and folders to the cloud and between machines and mobile devices. 

Is it any good?
Well that's a tough question to answer, in my opinion it's nothing special, it syncs your Google Docs to your machine but when you click on a Google Doc icon it still opens it in your browser as usual. To me this isn't very good. At the very least I would have liked to have seen the document open in a cut down browser window so that it looks like a separate application. With it just opening in your browser as a normal Google Doc then I really don't see the point in syncing them to your computer.

Other documents are a different matter though, Google Drive will sync them between machines but when you try to open them in the wen interface all you see is a preview, you cannot edit the document from your browser. So, if you are away from your computer you can't edit documents without downloading them, changing them and then uploading them again....just like Ubuntu One and Dropbox - poor show there Google!

Google are clearly trying to promote Google Docs with this tool and using Google Docs will mean that you can edit your docs anywhere but my question still stands - If you do this then what's the point n Google Drive? As you could always do this in Google Docs.

Google Drive does have dome advantages over Ubuntu One and Dropbox, you get 5GB free storage (the same as U1 and 3GB more than Dropbox), you have a revision history on all files (U1 doesn't offer this) and it is cheaper than Dropbox and offers better storage increments 20GB - $2.49/month, 100GB - $4.99/month & 200GB - $9.99/month. Also, if you upgrade your plan to a paid one Google will give you 25GB of storage in Gmail instead of 10GB. To find out more about Google Price Plans then check THIS LINK. 

Should I move to Google Drive?
Well I can't tell you what to do, you need to make that decision yourself but I personally use U1 and I won't be moving away from that anytime soon. If you use Google Docs for your documents or if you have a Chromebook then I think Google Drive will serve you very well but at the moment I personally don't see any clear advantages to moving away from U1 - but, I will be keeping an eye on Google Drive as Google will no doubt and more and more features over time as they do with all of their products.

Are you using Google Drive? Why not comment on how you are finding it.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Some New Ubuntu Wallpapers

Hey guys,

I recently saw a post on OMG! Ubuntu about creating custom wallpapers for Unity that make it look a little cooler. Basically you set you panel and launcher to 100% opacity and then create a wallpaper with a 'banner' on the top and left hand side that colour in the launcher and panel. This simple design has a really nice effect.

Anyway, I also dabble in artwork (very basic stuff) and decided to have a try at making my own version of one of these wallpapers. Seeing a lot of 'Keep calm & carry on' type artwork around, I thought I would create a wallpaper that is like this. So I created one that says 'Keep Calm and run Ubuntu'. I have created the wallpaper in varying colours (all official Ubuntu colours), varying sizes and some 'normal' wallpapers that don't have the panel and launcher fills on them. I've already posted them on my Google+ page to which they are receiving a lot of love so I thought I would post them here so you guys can take a look. If you like them please feel free too leave a comment. Here is a preview and the download link:

These wallpapers assume that your launcher size is 38px

Saturday, 14 April 2012

How To Secure Your PC FOR FREE! [Windows]

So I recently got a call of a friend, of a friend, of a friend who told me that they had a virus and asked if I could have a look at it for them. Being the local geek for all of my friends and family a agreed and popped round to see him one evening after work. 'Might have a virus' was possibly the biggest understatement I have ever heard, this thing was riddled with virus's, malware, bots and pretty much anything else you can think off. In the end the machine was so badly infected I decided to back up all the files and completely re-install the Operating System (Windows 7) but before doing so I had to ask him how it got so bad. His reply, "I dunno, it just started happening a few months ago and it keeps getting worse". I noticed that he had no anti-virus on the machine so no wonder the machine was so badly infected!

So anyway, I fixed the machine and I shared some pearls of wisdom with him in order to make sure he doesn't have a repeat performance and I thought I would then share this with you guys. So here are my top 4 tips for helping to reduce infections that come your way.

1. Get Some Anti-Virus Software

This is probably the most important thing you will need. Anti-Virus Software (AV for short) pro-actively scans your computer and checks new files that are being added/downloaded automatically. It will then warn you if it thinks a file is an infection. You can also run scans on demand and scan particular files before opening them. There are many different types of AV out there, some free, some you have to pay for. Personally, I've always used free AV and I have NEVER had a virus.

The best of the free AV in my opinion (and it's the one I use on all my machines running Windows) is Avast! free edition, it can be downloaded from HERE. It will do everything I have said above and more. I would suggest disabling the sound from the settings menu as they can be annoying. Also, make sure that your AV is ALWAYS kept up to date. If you don't then you are more vulnerable to infection.

2. Get Some Anti-Malware Software

Malware is short for Malicious Software. It is like a virus but generally they have different signatures (pieces of code that AV and AM use to find infections) and they tend to be more of an annoyance than something that can do damage to your machine. Generally malware will do things like change your home page and re-direct you to different pages on the internet automatically. Not all Malware is this 'mild' though, some Malware infections can be extremely damaging.

This is where Anti-Malware software (AM for short) comes in. As I said above, Malware infections tend to have different signatures from Viruses so some AV will not pick Malware up. Not to worry, there is a brilliant free tool call MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM for short) that will hunt down and remove Malware infections. You can download it for free from HERE. As with Avast! you can setup MBAM to run regular scans automatically on your machine. Again, it is VERY IMPORTANT to ALWAYS keep your AM and AV up to date so that they can find the newest infections.

3. Don't Open Emails From People You Don't Know

This is really obvious but most people don't follow it. It's simple, if you receive an email that you aren't expecting and it's from someone you don't know then delete it. The chances are it is at the very least it's spam and worst case a virus/malware. A common email infection that I have seen going around is an email from a 'delivery company' about 'your package' these can be a pretty malicious piece of malware embedded that disassociates all .exe files on your computer. This basically means that you can't run any applications, bad! So please be cautious.

Another little tip on email is to have 2 email addresses. Your main address (john.smith@gmail.com for example) and a secondary anonymous address (mymail3445@gmail.com for example). Then, if you ever find yourself having to fill out forms online that require an email address (which is extremely common) then you can use your generic address. This enables you to vet the company, so, once you know that they aren't going to spam you or that they are legitimate then you can log on to your account and simply change your email address with them. This is what I do and I get very little (around 2-3 mails) spam in my main mailbox. Whereas my secondary address get a tonne of spam daily. There are also free anti-spam tools that you can download and install into outlook to help it find and remove spam more efficiently. The best one I have use is SpamBayes, you can fine out more about SpamBayes HERE.

4. Keep Windows Up To Date

Windows updates are extremely important but a lot of people just see them as an annoyance that delays their computer from shutting down. When a vulnerability is found in the code for Windows either through an infection or by users reporting via crash reports, Microsoft gets to work on 'patching' the hole. These 'patches' are then released as Windows Updates. So you see, if you don't keep Windows up to date you are leaving your machine much more vulnerable than a fully 'patched' computer.

Once turned on, Windows updates will run on your computer automatically on a regular basis. You can turn them on by going to Start > Control Panel > Windows Updates > Check Settings.

As I said earlier on in this post, I have never had a virus in all the years I have been computing and all I do is follow these very simple guidelines. I hope this information is useful and if it helps just one person save some time and some money by not getting infected then it's all worth it. :)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Looking for a replacement for Internet Explorer? Look no further.

Ok, so I work for a small company called Hewlett Packard, some of you may have heard of it. Our ticket logging system requires Internet Explorer (IE) in order for it to work correctly (or at all in fact). My browser of choice tends to be Firefox, mainly because of it's extensions and customisability, both of which IE is severely lacking in.

The problem is that all browsers have an engine that runs underneath the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and this engine is used to decipher the code that is sent to your computer from the internet and display it in a nice human form. There are different types of engines that run on different browsers, IE uses Trident, Firefox uses Gecko and Chrome uses WebKit. All render web pages in slightly different ways. There is a really good site called browsershots.org that will compare your site on different browsers and give you a screen shot of what it will look like. HERE is a look to what this blog looks like across all the different browser types.

Anyway, I digress. Our ticketing systems will only run on the Trident engine which means I can't use Ubuntu in work as Trident only runs on Windows (sucks I know). So I'm on my Windows 7 work laptop and I find myself using IE quite a lot as our ticketing system is used extensively by all the engineers. As I said, I loath IE so I started hunting around for other Trident based web browsers. I had a look at a few other browsers that are Trident based like Maxthon, MenuBox and SlimBrowser but none of these had the level of functionality I was looking for - apart from Maxthon which had too much going on and the GUI was far to busy for my liking.

So, a little more time and research went by and I came across Lunascape. It can be installed with all 3 of the engines I mentioned above and you can quickly and easily flip between them. I was only interested in Trident though as I use Firefox for everything else. The GUI is really slick looking and the pages seem to load a lot better in Lunascape than they do in IE (for me anyway). I've been using Lunascape for around a week now and I haven't had any problems with it at all.

I've had to edit the screenshot to remove some information (specifically the tab bar). This is why some parts of it may look strange.

All in all I've found Lunascape to be an excellent alternative to IE, it's no replacement for Firefox or Chrome in my opinion but is far better than IE. So if you have a system that requires IE compatibility or if you just want to try out a new browser - why not give Lunascape a try.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ubuntu 11.10 Vs Windows 7 - Clash Of The Titans!

As most people who read my blog will know, Ubuntu vs Windows and which is better is widely debated within the community. In this post I will add my point of view as to which is better in my opinion. I must stress at this point that I am not a Linux or Windows 'fanboy' I used both Windows and Ubuntu on a regular basis and I think both Win 7 and Bun2 11.10 are excellent operating systems for very different reasons.

So what sparked this post? Well, I recently bought myself a new laptop (a HP Pavilion DM1-425ea 11.6", 6GB RAM, 320GB HDD, AMD Dual Core, Radeon HD Graphics). So, I got the laptop home and the first thing I did was was take a full image of the laptop, as it was before even booting it up. This means that I have a factory image no matter what happens. I then preceded to delete all the partitions on the Hard Drive and then installed Windows 7 Home Premium x64 and Ubuntu 11.10 x64 side-by-side on the Hard Drive. Re-installing Windows meant that I got rid of all the HP 'bloatware' that came on the machine.

Ok, so I've now got two completely vanilla operating systems that I haven't done anything with...I haven't even booted them up to check compatibility or run updates (bear in mind that my laptop brandishes the certified Windows 7 hardware sticker on it). I start off by configuring Windows as this is usually the most time consuming. I boot to Windows only to find that the only device driver that Windows 7 has picked up is my speakers (beats audio ones), no LAN, no Wireless, 800x600 resolution...nothing. So, I can't do anything on this OS yet as I have no internet, so, off to Ubuntu land we go...

I've now rebooted to Ubuntu; low and behold absolutely all my hardware works straight out of the box - I don't seem to remember seeing a certified Ubuntu hardware sticker on my laptop...how ironic. So I download all my Windows drivers from HP and bang them on to my NTFS partition for Windows to pick up. I then run some updates (around 300MB), configure Ubuntu One to download all my data, change my theme and wallpaper and finally install a handful of apps from the software centre. The whole process took around 30 minutes (with absolutely no terminal work) and I have a fully working and functional operating systems. So, back to Windows land we go...

Ok, I'm now back in Windows 7 and I have my drivers all ready and waiting for me. I install them all and re-boot and I now have a lovely looking desktop with a resolution of 1366x768...so much better :). I activate Windows (I had to phone Microsoft for this as Internet activation failed) and then install 208MB of updates, re-boot and install more updates, re-boot again and install a third set of updates...2.5 hours (and a lot of Xbox) later and Windows is now up to date. Oh crap, I don't have an office package (in my case Libre), AV (Avast Free), PDF reader (Foxit), DVD burner (CD Burner XP), IM client (Digsby) and a handful of other programs that I need on a daily basis (most of which are installed by default in Ubuntu). So I spend another hour downloading and installing various programs and now, nearly 4 hours later I have Windows running how I need it to run...I need by bed by this point!

When people see my desktop running Ubuntu they often say to me, "wow, what's that?" I then explain that it is Ubuntu and it's free etc etc etc and they soon want a download link. Other people ask if it's easy to install and run. The simple answer and the evidence above prove that Ubuntu is easier to install and configure than Windows and provided you are not using your computer for anything really advanced like programming and that you have no pre-conceived ideas that Ubuntu will work just like Windows then you will get on with it just fine (after all, how hard is it to hit the Windows/Super key, search for what you want and hit enter to open it up?).

In short, if you want familiarity and guaranteed compatibility then go for Windows. If you want a computer that is quick, stable, virus free and something different then download Ubuntu. Windows 7 is a fantastic OS, as is Ubuntu but during my experience recently of setting both operating systems up at the same time (which I haven't done for ages) then Ubuntu is the way forward.

By the way, here is that "wow, what is that?" desktop I was talking about:

I hope you enjoyed this article and you all continue to love Ubuntu, Windows and more importantly, this blog :).