Anti-Virus: Don't Leave 'Home' Without It!
Let's face it, whether you are physically at home sitting in front of your computer or out and about with your laptop; accessing and surfing the internet can be like leaving your house with no clothes on. It does not take much imagination to think of the dangers and unpleasantness that would bring! What's that? You would not do that, you say? Well, I am glad to hear it! But what about your internet surfing? Do you 'leave' the safety of your computer without the 'wrapped' protection that comes from having a good anti-virus program installed?

What's that you say? Oh, you don't have lots of money to spend on that sort of thing, right now? Well, rest easy, because I am going to tell you about a great little program that you can get for free! Now, there are many anti-virus programs available for free, but they are not all created equal. Some are better than others because they are easier to use and have more options. Over the past decade, I have used three freeware anti-virus programs, extensively. These are Comodo Internet Security, Avast Anti-Virus, and Panda Anti-Virus.

Comodo's program is, by far, the most complex -offering many options and parameter settings that the non-technical user may be intimidated or confused by. Comodo's security suite incorporates real-time sensitivity to your online activities and will catch malware in its tracks before it can reach your machine.  Using heuristics, it will also watch the behavior of the programs on your computer for suspicious activity and alert you immediately to any found. Sensitivity settings exist for this feature, as well as its scanning functionality. Downloading virus definitions is a time-consuming process, however, which can take up to twenty minutes! It is also a total resource hog, running heavy on my machine and slowing everything else down.

Avast Anti-Virus used to be a nice little program with a clean graphical interface and ease of use even though it offered a lot of options. Avast can be set up to integrate with your email client to scan all incoming and outgoing email. You can choose to have a notice appended to all outgoing emails alerting the recipient that it was scanned with Avast and found safe. Avast will also allow you to set heuristic sensitivity levels. You have more choices for types of scans than with Comodo, yet it has much trouble finding and scanning removable drives. As of this article, the current freeware version is bloated with adware and constantly tries to trick you into upgrading to the paid version. Very sneaky. I want my anti-virus program to be sneaky in its ability to catch all the sneaky malware out there - not trying to manipulate me into something I don't want!

And now we come to the gem of the three: Panda anti-virus. Panda uses the latest cloud-scanning technology. It has been consistently rated well over the years by PC World and other tech-savvy sites and just seems to get better and better. Panda is extremely easy to use with a simple, clear interface which makes it a great choice for the novice. The intuitive interface utilizes the simplicity of the flat graphic design of Windows 8. It is extremely fast and can thoroughly scan my system in less than a third of the time that Comodo's scanner took. It has a light footprint on the machine and does not slow it down at all. Panda is a good choice if you are using an older machine, although it is well-suited and geared for all Windows OS beginning with 2000 to 8.1 It only requires a miniscule 128 bytes of RAM and needs a minimum 300 Mhz Pentium processing power. I highly recommend this essential tool. You can download Panda here.

I know some of you are wondering just how good a freeware anti-virus program could be, and may feel more comfortable purchasing a subscription for a paid version. Rest assured, each of the software programs above do come in a paid version and offer more bells and whistles. These come in several forms from the casual home user to heavy duty business platforms. Panda Anti-virus Pro, the paid version, is a completely different program than its free cloud based cousin. It has been rated in tests to be slightly better in regard to catching malware in 'real time', but otherwise really does not rate better than the freeware version, according to a recent article in PC World. However, for the current annual price of $31.99, it is still an excellent bargain!

Communication Using Your Computer

The Issue:

You're involved in many group projects. Between your classes, work, and outside responsibilities, you're finding it difficult to meet in person. Discuss what how your group could have virtual meetings. In the work environment, will these same techniques work when working on team projects? Why or why not?

The Solution:

Being part of a team and needing to work together on a project can be challenging. For example, team members may be separated by many miles. Even if group members live in the same geographical area, time constraints and logistics can make it difficult to get together. Thanks to modern computers and the internet, there are now many ways in which a team may use technology to collaborate on a project. These all make use of the internet and are valuable tools, not only for their ease of use. Using internet-based programs opens a forum for full communication, where each person's ideas and input can be expressed equally (since their is no interplay of power such as will occur in typical face to face group meetings). Additionally, making use of online technology empowers team members to work on their part of the project at the most productive and convenient time for them. 

In any group project, communication is key. It is essential to ensure everyone is on the same page, so-to-speak, by having a clear understanding of expectations. For example, who has been assigned what, when things are due, what the final goal is. Since everyone is in daily interaction with their EMAIL, using this tool to remind people of deadlines and updates to the project is recommended.   

Another online tool, which most people have probably heard of if not used, is GOOGLE DOCS. This program allows the viewing and editing of documents such as word processor, spreadsheets and presentations. This is quite versatile, for example, even if a team-member is a Linux user and does not use the Microsoft Office product, the document can be saved in the open document format. 

If image sharing is necessary to the group project there is a nifty and versatile tool called MEDIAFIRE which allows you to upload imagery to folders you create.For example: Pre-Project, In-Transition, Project Completion. The folder can be shared with a link and images viewed easily online. They can be downloaded individually or an entire folder as a zip file.

SPIDERSCRIBE combines the functionality of the two above platforms by using a comprehensive white board presentation. With this online tool you can share documents, images and maps.

If a face to face meeting is really necessary this can be accomplished by using GOOGLE + HANGOUT, provided each team member is a Google plus member and has a web-cam on their machine. 

Each of the above mentioned tools are free to use and register for, which makes working together on a group project doable for those on a tight budget, which is ideal for college students or entrepreneurial individuals with a start-up company.