Readers' Forum - September 2004

by Rob Zorn
from the September 2004 Newsletter

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "Forum" in the subject line. I'll try and answer your question by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

Kevin writes: Hello Rob. There has been much said about anti virus systems. I am using AVG anti virus system free edition. This is updated on a regular basis. I also download the critical windows updates as they become available. But in my local paper an article appeared that stated that free anti virus systems were not worth the paper they were written on. The article recommended to use one offered by Symantec (Nortons). In your view, or that of your readers, am I safely covered by AVG?

Hi Kevin, Thanks for this and for providing me with a scan of the article from the Otago Daily Times. It was an interesting read, though I wish the writer had been clearer on just why he found the free anti-virus programs so poor. Our experience has been that they do the same job as the ones you pay for, with a few less bells and whistles. I use a free anti-virus program (ClamWin) with which I am happy, and I hear only good reports about AVG.

To me, though, anti-virus programs aren't the important issue. These sorts of programs should be seen as the last line of defence. Many sensible computer users I know don't use anything at all. The key issues are updating your Windows system every month (so the weaknesses that viruses exploit get patched), and never clicking attachments that look the slightest bit suspicious. If people did these two things, viruses wouldn't stand a chance.

I'd be interested in hearing others' views or stories regarding whether they've found free anti-virus programs to be markedly inferior.

ClamWin - http://www.clamwin.net/
AVG - http://www.grisoft.com/us/us_index.php  

Eva writes: Dear Rob, My problem is a free firewall system.I downloaded Zonelabs- Zone Alarm Firewall - but could not install it, as it tells me "only suitable for 98". Therein lies my problem. I have Windows 95. My family and friends tell me a firewall is as essential as an anti virus programme. Can you advise a free firewall system for my 95? Thanking you in anticipation, Eva.

Hi Eva, There are a couple of free firewalls that are supposed to work okay on Windows 95. I have not had personal experience with either program, though, and it's been a while since I've been near a WIN95 system!

Sygate Personal Firewall will run on W95. I'm told it's fairly easy to use.
Omniquad Personal Firewall will also run on WIN95 and gets good reviews. I hope one of these works out okay for you.

Tim writes: I like reading overseas newspapers online. Recently my favourite sites want reader registration before they will let me get at the body of articles. Presumably an e-mail address would be required when registering. My nasty suspicious little mind means I don't like handing over details so freely in times like these . What is a way around this one? I thought of having a secondary account which I might never actually read, but wouldn't this just clutter up the Actrix system?

Hi Tim, You're probably very wise not to hand over your e-mail address so readily. Not all newspaper sites would onsell your e-mail address to Spammers, but you never know, and guarding your e-mail address carefully is a good habit to keep. Some Actrix plans come with extra e-mail addresses, and one of those could be used for times like you mention. If you entered an e-mail address you never used, then you'd never see any Spam sent to it. It probably wouldn't clutter up the system too much now that we have a system that deletes Spam every 30 days. If you never used it for anything else (so you could be sure anything in it was Spam) it would be easy enough for you to go online and delete its entire contents every month.

However, a lot of people open a hotmail or yahoo account for this sort of thing, and then never check it. The thing is, most of the sites that require you to log in send a validation e-mail to the e-mail address you use to sign up. You have to respond to that e-mail before your account is created. Therefore, you would normally have to check e-mail to that address at least once. If you didn't have to check it, then you wouldn't need a valid e-mail address at all. In cases like that you could just enter some gobbledegook into the e-mail address field.