Langa Letter: Favorite Tools, Utilities, And Add-Ons
What ''must have'' software do you install on your PC? Here's Fred Langa's list of his personal favorites.
Fred's Current Favorite Windows Tools And Add-Ons Firewalls: One of the very first add-ons I install when setting up a new PC is a good desktop firewall, even though my systems run behind a router and/or NAT tool that helps shield them from outside attack. As we discussed in "How Much Protection Is Enough?" I believe in a multilayered defense strategy. Plus, desktop firewalls also can help guard against some worms, Trojans, and "phone home" malware that routers and external firewalls cannot.
A reliable, robust antivirus tool is an essential part of safe computing today--it's just plain nuts to run without AV protection. There are myriad tools available but I find myself coming back to the same three:
The first two are commercial, the latter has a lightweight free version for personal use; all protect against malicious downloads and E-mail.
NOD32 repeatedly scores at the top of independent virus detection and cleaning tests. Its antivirus database is updated every day, and the software can be configured to self-update every 24 hours. Because the updates are frequent, the downloads are small and take just a few seconds. NOD32 is a little harder to configure than the others, but overall is a truly outstanding AV tool.
Symantec/Norton's AV is ubiquitous, both as a standalone tool and as a component of various Symantec security suites. Symantec produces updates on a regular basis, though not usually every day; and by default, the AV software only phones home for AV updates once a week. You can change this, and manually download and install AV updates, but the built-in interval is a bit long in the fast-moving world of malware attacks. Otherwise, Symantec/Norton AV works acceptably well; it's largely self-configuring, and the newer versions usually do a good job of integrating into a PC's E-mail system for transparent, automatic filtering of both inbound and outbound E-mail.
Grisoft's AVG does a credible job of protecting the PC's files and E-mail, but it offers fewer options than the others. (The paid version is more flexible than the free.) I believe AVG is a perfectly acceptable AV package, but also believe the others, above, are a bit better.
E-Mail And Antispam
I currently get more than 7,000 E-mails a day--approaching 3 million E-mails a year--and so absolutely depend on E-mail filters and antispam tools to help me find the wheat in the flood of E-mail chaff that arrives each day.
Eudora is my primary E-mail tool. Although recent versions have some disappointing stability issues, its built-in filters do a good job of not only detecting and discarding spam, but also identifying, sorting, and auto-responding to a variety of valid mail. Eudora is at the heart of my online newsletter operation, for example.
Spamnix adds advanced rule-based and Bayesian filters to Eudora's decent built-in tools; used together Eudora and Spamnix sort the spam to the side, and organize the rest of my valid E-mail, even auto-responding to a large percentage of that; leaving me with a relatively small percentage of E-mails each day--several hundred--that require human intervention and response. Without these tools, my E-mail would be unmanageable.
I do use Microsoft Outlook Express for several disposable and recreational E-mail accounts. But I entrust no business mail to Outlook Express and usually simply discard most of the mail that arrives in those mailboxes, unread.
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