Bitdefender: antivirus software that isn’t a resource hog

If ever there was software that became overly bloated it’s antivirus software offerings. Some would say that they make your PC secure because it becomes so unusable you’d never be able to download a virus! But Bitdefender is different.

OK, so apart from Windows Defender, most antivirus software offerings do the basics quite well – they contain comprehensive virus definition databases that get updated quickly. The reason we like Bitdefender is that it doesn’t slow your machine down much or annoy you with silly popups.

Once downloaded Bitdefender will sit quietly in the background, all you have is an icon in your system tray. There’s not a glaring pop up trying to sell you an upgrade or scaring you with stories of fear; just an icon. It will monitor your activity in the background and keep a check on things for you.

If you wish to do an intensive, full system scan then you can. Even when this is running, Bitdefender just shows a small activity picture in the lower right hand corner of your screen.

It works too, from running the full scan on our test PC Bitdefender picked up two Trojans that Windows Defender had missed, which Bitdefender successfully quarantined.

You can pick up free or paid for versions (see here) and you can get Bitdefender to run for free on your Android phone too (see here).

Speed up your Windows PC, Mac or Phone with Ccleaner

Cleaning up your PC can give you more storage space back, and give you a speed boost as your computer is not bogged down processing unnecessary files or instructions.

Actually cleaning up this space is rather more challenging though. You need to first of all figure out where the files are that can be removed (without damaging anything in the process) and then you have to actually delete them which is rather tedious.

Enter Ccleaner an application for PC, Mac & Phones with both free and paid for versions (see here for more details). Once you’ve downloaded and installed Ccleaner it will safely clean up space by removing unnecessary files left on your disk by Windows (or OSX) and applications that you’ve installed, on top of this on Windows PCs it will analyse your registry to pick up problems (such as dangling references to dlls, etc) that could be slowing down your machine.

When cleaning files you get a nice interface which allows you to select which files to look at – if there are some applications that you don’t want Ccleaner to touch (we left Chrome alone for example) then you can untick this. The application first analyses what can be done – our analysis found roughly 23gb of space that could be restored – if you are happy to go ahead then the application will remove these files. Note, it permentanly removes the files! No going back.

Speed up your PC

On the registry side of things a similar process is followed. Ccleaner will first analyse your registry for problems. However, given the sensitivity of the registry and the potential for damage, it gives you the option to backup the registry to file first. We strongly recommend doing this. As it happens, there were no problems when we ran Ccleaner on our registry.

Speed up your PC

Ccleaner doesn’t just work on a Windows PC, it will run on your Mac and your Android smartphone too.

Ccleaner is highly recommended and comes in free and paid for versions (see here for more details).

Answered: Do I need anti-virus software for Windows 10? [Updated for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition]

Updated for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition (12th August 2016)

Back in January of this year we wrote about the anti-virus capabilities of Windows 10 (available to download at this link if you don’t yet have a copy).  Since then Microsoft has released the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition which updates Windows Defender so that:

  1. If you chose to run your own antivirus (such as McAfee for $9.99) then Windows Defender will no longer be disabled.  It will periodically check your PC and also perform all its other security functions.
  2. Windows Defender is tied into the better notification system in Windows 10 so that, if a problem is found, you will be notified immediately.

If you want to read more about Windows Defender’s own capabilities without additional antivirus then carry on reading below…

Original Post (also at this link)

Those that have been Windows users for a long time will be familiar with buying antivirus software. For a long time it has been essential, and potentially considered irresponsible to not use it (you can distribute viruses to others without knowing about it, for example). Apple Mac users used to look on smugly as their Windows using counterparts suffered attack after attack.

Windows users regularly installed software such as Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky etc. However, Windows 10 has is now here and stable. Windows 10 is a free upgrade for most, however if this isn’t the case for you or you are installing it onto a new computer you can buy a copy of Windows 10 Home on a USB stick from Amazon (click here for a direct link). Does it get rid of the need for anti-virus software? No, of course not. There are still plenty of viruses, malware and other nasties kicking around the web. However, Windows 10 comes with a comprehensive set of built in security tools that will more than address your needs. These all come under the umbrella of Windows Defender.

Windows Defender is a robust set of tools that automatically scan your computer for viruses, malware, spyware and more. It does not get in the way of your everyday use of the computer, letting you get on with your tasks at hand, but it does keep running in the background keeping everything secure.


A major point is that, whilst you can have the best antivirus software in the world, if its knowledge of current viruses is out of date then its performance will suffer. It needs up to date definitions to know what to look for, so you have to keep your software update date. This is where Windows 10 with Windows Defender really wins. Windows 10 is now an operating system as a service, which means it is updated in the background without you having to do anything (especially if you are on Windows 10 Home… Pro users have more responsibility to manage updates). New virus definitions are updated along with all the usual Windows updates, which you don’t need to take control of. The upshot is that your system will be as up to date with the latest virus definitions as it can be, without you needing to take any action.

With Windows 10 there is little need for additional security software (unless, of course, you are the type of person who prepares for doomsday) given what Microsoft have made available for free. Of course, you have to trust Microsoft to get it right, but that’s another story. 🙂

Is this malware? Chromium browser update needed…

I can’t work this one out.  I’ve Googled around the web, but not found anything.  Periodically, I get the following image pop up on my Windows 10 PC:

Update Required

It reads:

Update Required

Your version of Yahoo search is out of date.

There is a newer and improved version available with the fresh and intuitive Chromium browser.  By clicking “OK” you agree to Install Chromium browser as your default browser, install our Desktop search bar, set Yahoo provided search as your default search, homepage and new tab on all of your compatible browsers.

I don’t want any of that! I also don’t use Yahoo search (so I don’t really think this is from Yahoo), which is why I wonder if it is malware.  Windows Defender does not seem to pick anything up.




How to: Touchscreen pen annotation in Microsoft Windows 10

It is ridiculous that we still print out documents and scrawl all over them with a biro.  Not only is this terrible for the environment, but it’s expensive and wasteful for print resources.

Windows 10 has some built in features that enable you to annotate documents and websites.  Paired with the right hardware this can be a slick process which removes the need to print.  If you don’t have a copy of Windows 10 you can pick up a copy here.

Hardware wise we’re using a Dell XPS 13 which has a built in touchscreen (see more details of the Dell here).  For pen like annotation we’re using the Adonit Jot Pro – this is not expensive it retails at $22.49 on Amazon (see here).

Once you’ve got your PDF that you want to annotate, open up Microsoft’s OneNote desktop application.  You need to go to ‘Insert’ then ‘File Printout’ which will import the PDF:

Annotate PDF with pen in Windows 10

Once the PDF has loaded, click on Draw and select the Pen.  You can then annotate your PDF as you would do a normal document by touching the pen to the touchscreen:

Annotate a pdf with pen in Windows 10

 

A helpful tip when writing is to zoom in on the document to get finer granularity.

If you want to annotate a web page fire up Microsoft Edge (Windows 10’s new browser). Tap the icon with a pen on the right of the address bar.  You can save your notes (and the original webpage) to Microsoft’s OneNote service as was used above to annotate the pdf.



How to backup a Windows 10 PC; time machine for Windows

A good backup strategy is critical. Your personal files, documents, photos and more are all stored on your PC, and you certainly don’t want to lose these. In this article we walk you through how to use the built in tools on Windows 10 to back up your files and automatically keep revision histories.

Apple’s OSX has had a backup utility as part of the operating system for some time now. This is actually a really good system that tends to just work. For a while Windows was lacking a simile tool, although 3rd party tools went quite some way to addressing that.

Windows 10 has a very effective backup solution built in, which is now comparable to Apple’s time machine. For most people Windows 10 is a free upgrade, click here to find out more.

File History is a Windows backup application, that comes as standard in Windows 10, and can be found in the Control Panel (search for Control Panel in Cortana, once in the Control Panel just search for File History in the top right search box).

File History does two things:

  1. Keeps a backup of your files – this is necessary incase your hard disk catastrophically fails.
  2. Keeps a revision history of your files (every hour or so) – this is important because it protects against you accidentally deleting files or making changes that you want to undo.

When you open up File History for the first time you will need to select a secondary hard disk to back your files up to. We’ve had success with two different options:

  1. A small hard disk that plugs into a USB socket. This is probably the fastest option but not great if you move around the home a lot. We use this in our office. It is worth selecting a good reliable brand. click here for the Western Digital USB drive we recommend.
  2. A network hard disk. This option connects to your network so that your laptop can back up over your wireless network. Most often you put the hard disk next to your router and plug them in together. We do this at home so we can move about the house. We like the Western Digital disks as they are reliable, but also if you want to use them as a media server then this is possible too. Click here for the Western Digital network drive we recommend.

The File History control panel allows you to select which files you want to backup (or exclude from the backup). Once you have configured your backup disk, File History will do an initial backup. From that point on (assuming your backup disk is plugged in or on the same network) it will monitors your files for changes and keep them backed up too.



If you want to access files from the backup, File History allows you to scroll back in time to find the version of the file you are after. You simply select this file and restore it to your primary hard disk.

It’s also worth noting, that this backup solution is often used in combination with cloud services such as Microsoft Onedrive. It is not one or the other. These give you a good option for off site backup, but you are not in control of it. We would recommend running both a cloud backup for smaller, important documents, but also keep your own backup for peace of mind and big files.

If you want to understand more about antivirus software for Windows 10, check out this post: Answered: Do I need anti-virus software for Windows 10?

How to secure erase a Windows 10 computer

Your computer stores your personal information, be it confidential business information or personal emails, photos and contacts. When you come to get rid of your computer, maybe selling it, gifting it or disposing of it you will want to make sure this data is gone. In this short guide, accompanied by a video, we’ll show you how.

Firstly, simply deleting files won’t do. Even if you empty the recycle bin they can still be recovered. In addition there may well be data that you don’t know about, in places that you don’t know about.

Windows 10 has a built in feature which will securely erase all your data and apps, and then reinstall the operating system (that is, Windows 10 itself).

Be warned, if you do this there is no going back and your data will be gone forever!

Follow these steps (shown in the video below, direct link here: https://youtu.be/vCjnHpJV2Jo) to securely erase your Windows 10 computer and reinstall Windows:

  1. Make sure your PC is plugged in to a power source
  2. Click on start
  3. Open settings
  4. Select Update & Recovery
  5. Select Recovery from the options on the left
  6. Then select Get Started from under Reset this PC
  7. From the three options available choose Remove Everything – at this stage this isn’t necessary a secure erase
  8. Select the second option ‘Remove files and clean the drive’.  This is the critical part and will make sure all your data is destroyed

The process will take a few hours as it needs to reformat your computer’s storage. The PC will restart a few times and for a lot of that time the screen may be black – don’t be alarmed!

Once the process is complete you will need to set the computer up again as if it were a new one.

For further Windows 10 reading check out: Windows 10: The Missing Manual on Amazon

Windows 10 is a free upgrade. Click here to find out more.

 


Python development on Windows 10

So, speak to most people in the Python community and they are going to be Mac users or Linux users. Python is baked into these operating systems and everything works nicely (most of the time). But, there are some of us who work on Windows (or, more precisely, all platforms) so how do we fair?

In the past, Windows has been a bit of a pain for the Python developer. What should be simple never was; if it wasn’t a build script failing, or a compiler not present, then it was lack of support for awesome tools such as virtualenv, easy_install and pip. Things just weren’t as simple as they were on OSX or ‘nix.

But here we are with Windows 10, and more importantly Visual Studio 2015. Now, Visual Studio was always a good development environment if you were writing for .Net. It was fully featured and had many happy users. With Visual Studio 2015 there are three important things to note:

  1. It is free. Yes, the community edition (with the Python tools) is 100% free. If you’re part of an organisation and you the want the Pro edition, there’s the usual Microsoft fee: Visual Studio 2015
  2. It has the brilliant Python tools for Visual Studio built in which gives you virtualenv management, with pip, requirements.txt, etc.
  3. It installs all those pesky compilers that you always had to hunt around for.

So, you download Visual Studio 2015 and go to install it.. make sure you select all the Python tools! This is a complete set of tools (you can also get them separately from GitHub here: https://github.com/Microsoft/PTVS if you miss this, but it’s just easier to install it all at once). When you install all these tools, you’ll find that the compilers that are needed for pip to be able to build your Python packages are installed to. Bye bye build errors.

When using Visual Studio 2015 with Python tools, you have to change your mentality a little bit from the OSX/Linux world. Much less is done at the shell, instead you click on things. You get all the Python syntax highlighting you would expect, and Visual Studio lets you manage your interpreters too. If you want to use a virtualenv you simply click on a few menu items and Visual Studio will build it for you – it has a rather cool feature too: if you have a requirements.txt file in your project, the env will automatically be built with pip setting up all your dependencies from the requirements file.

When you are in full coding mode, you’re going to need a decent debugger. Visual Studio give you a sturdy debugger which gives all the usual analysis – and it doesn’t feel like a bolt on at all. You even get a the ability to quickly pop open an interactive python shell for some quick hacking.

For further reading checkout the excellent Python Tools for Visual Studio on Amazon Kindle or Paperback (click here)
by Cathy Wong.

Of course, there are other IDEs out there that are good too. We particularly like PyCharm and use this across multiple OSes. The only issue here is that you have to install the compilers in Windows yourself (and we’ve been burned by this before).

Ultimately the choice of IDE is a personal one. However, Python development on Windows is finally coming of age and should not be written off!



Answered: Do I need anti-virus software for Windows 10?

Those that have been Windows users for a long time will be familiar with buying antivirus software. For a long time it has been essential, and potentially considered irresponsible to not use it (you can distribute viruses to others without knowing about it, for example). Apple Mac users used to look on smugly as their Windows using counterparts suffered attack after attack.

Windows users regularly installed software such as Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky etc. However, Windows 10 has is now here and stable. Windows 10 is a free upgrade (click here to find out how) for most, however if this isn’t the case for you or you are installing it onto a new computer you can buy a copy of Windows 10 Home on a USB stick from Amazon (click here for a direct link). Does it get rid of the need for anti-virus software? No, of course not. There are still plenty of viruses, malware and other nasties kicking around the web. However, Windows 10 comes with a comprehensive set of built in security tools that will more than address your needs. These all come under the umbrella of Windows Defender.

Windows Defender is a robust set of tools that automatically scan your computer for viruses, malware, spyware and more. It does not get in the way of your everyday use of the computer, letting you get on with your tasks at hand, but it does keep running in the background keeping everything secure.

A major point is that, whilst you can have the best antivirus software in the world, if its knowledge of current viruses is out of date then its performance will suffer. It needs up to date definitions to know what to look for, so you have to keep your software update date. This is where Windows 10 with Windows Defender really wins. Windows 10 is now an operating system as a service, which means it is updated in the background without you having to do anything (especially if you are on Windows 10 Home… Pro users have more responsibility to manage updates). New virus definitions are updated along with all the usual Windows updates, which you don’t need to take control of. The upshot is that your system will be as up to date with the latest virus definitions as it can be, without you needing to take any action.

With Windows 10 there is little need for additional security software (unless, of course, you are the type of person who prepares for doomsday) given what Microsoft have made available for free. Of course, you have to trust Microsoft to get it right, but that’s another story. 🙂

Great apps for Windows 10 tablets

So, you’ve got your new Windows 10 tablet, maybe it’s a nice shiny Microsoft Surface device… now you’re going to need some apps to get you going.

If you’re running a Windows 10 laptop or desktop PC, this guide still applies to you however you have a wealth of programs that can be run in desktop mode (sure, you can run them on a tablet… but it may make you hate your tablet!).

This guide will list each application, along with a direct link to the Windows Store to download them.. No need to go searching!

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle for Windows 10

Amazon Kindle for Windows 10

Everyone knows Amazon’s Kindle service. It’s the most popular e-reader out there, but you don’t have to use a physical kindle. This is a great application lets you access your library, read your books and keep in sync with all your other kindle devices and apps.

Download Amazon Kindle for Windows 10 here

Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, OneNote Mobile & PowerPoint Mobile

Office Mobile for Windows 10
Office Mobile for Windows 10

OK, not one app but four. These apps are specifically designed for a touch interface. This means that you won’t have lots of fiddle tapping on an interface designed for a mouse, and you don’t need to install the desktop version of the Office suite. You can view, edit and share the documents you work on, saving them to cloud services such as OneDrive and Dropbox.

Download Office Mobile for Windows 10 here

Netflix

Netflix on Windows 10
Netflix on Windows 10

I couldn’t live without my Netflix subscription, and sure, you could watch it in the browser but with a dedicated app you have native performance and an optimized touch interface. All we wish for here is that the app would support our Chromecast as it does on iOS and Android.

Download Netflix for Windows 10 here

Flipboard

Flipboard for Windows 10
Flipboard for Windows 10

Windows 10 actually comes with a pretty good news app by default, and we’re not knocking that… Its live tile is really good. However, you really can’t beat Flipboard for its coverage and scope for customization. Of course, it is free..you just have to sign up for an account..

Download Flipboard for Windows 10 here

Skyscanner

Skyscanner on Windows 10
Skyscanner on Windows 10

Your tablet is your travel companion, so book some trips. Skyscanner’s Windows 10 app hunts down the best deal for you so that you don’t pay over the odds. It is all touch friendly and lets you filter by flight duration, time of day, airline, airports and more.

Download Skyscanner for Windows 10 here

Minecraft

Minecraft for Windows 10
Minecraft for Windows 10

This is the ultimate classic game, now under the Microsoft wing. It does cost a few bucks, paid through the Store, but its worth it.. It’ll keep you entertained on those long commutes!

Download Minecraft for Windows 10 here

One Calendar

One Calendar for Windows 10
One Calendar for Windows 10

The built in calendar application in Windows 10 is a bit of a let down. Important features are just missing. Good job that One Calendar is here to step in. It is a fully featured calendar which syncs with most of your cloud services including Google Calendar.

Download One Calendar for Windows 10 here

Facebook

Facebook for Windows 10
Facebook for Windows 10

Admit it, you can’t do without Facebook can you! Facebook for Windows 10 offers a snappy, responsive and familiar user interface. Pin the app to your start menu to get nice snippets from your timeline without having to open the app.

Download Facebook for Windows 10 here

Of course, there are some key applications and functionality missing, which we’re hoping will appear soon.  We’d love Chromecast support and please, where is the Spotify app?