Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Review of Open Office - a Free Office Package that Has Grown-Up

An open source community project release by Sun Microsystems has grown up over the last few years. What I mean by grown up is that it has been released to become a major contender with the pricey Microsoft Office platform. The open source community is comprised of thousands of developers. Some truly wonderful projects have been born over the last few years. Open Office 2.3 is a release that can truly claim that it is as good if not better than its professional counter parts that you have to pay for.

The Open Office project can be downloaded from or you can order a CD. It is a multi-platform office package that has been released for Windows, Linux, Unix and other operating systems. One of the other wonderful enhancements is that it is natively multi-lingual.

Upon downloading the lightweight Open Office platform, installing is fairly seamless. You have a choice to register or not. It will ask you for your name and information and then ask if you wish to register with their website. A surprising box will open to ask if you wish Open Office to automatically open Microsoft Office documents namely Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Thats right you read that right. Open Office has its own native document formats but you also have the options to save as a word document, html document and other platforms.

The packages that come with Open Office are a writer, spreadsheet package, database package, presentation package and other Office applications we have grown to come accustomed to. You have as many options for document enhancements as you have come to expect from any office application. Your font selection is wide and your formatting options are full.

Support for these office applications come from a full open source community of developers and users. Often this method of support is preferred over some of the more difficult costly options you have with a product you have purchased.

From its initial development stage Open Office has grown up dramatically to become a major contender in the office application market. From a consultant who has worked in the industry for over 15 years I would recommend this product to anyone. Now may be the best time that everyone turns to open source applications as an option for their software needs. For many reasons, one of them being to stop major application providers from raising prices so high.

Review of the Firefox Web Browser as an Alternative to Internet Explorer

Several years ago the Mozilla Firefox web browser was launched. It is a free web browser with huge development community support. Built on the same back end platform as Netscape, it was released as a light weight alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer. For many reasons it has become a more popular and better alternative to Internet Explorer.

Firefox supports tabbed browsing natively and has a very user friendly interface. Caching is handled within the Firefox application directory under the users Documents and Settings Folder. Often for any connection Firefox will load pages much faster than its competitors. Another wonderful benefit is built in pop up blocker support, and integration with many different media plug-ins. Firefox offers support for expansion. A large developer community has released many plug-ins to expand Firefox's ability.

With Internet Explorer it is a native built in part of the Microsoft Windows operating system. Any Windows function that requires an Internet browser opens with Internet Explorer. You cannot easily change this, and to make matters worse most applications will open Internet Explorer even if you have chosen another browser as your default. Caching within the Windows operating system is basically built in. When you remove browsing history, cookies or other pieces of information browsing information is still held in index files. Even in the Windows registry you can find large amounts of information regarding sites you have.

Using Firefox there is much more anonymity within your browsing habits. This lightweight Internet browser lets you browse they World Wide Web much faster. You can expand the functionality of your browsing experience and ease of use. You control what information is left about your browsing habits. Firefox's security enhancements are very comparable to Internet Explorer. Spyware, Virus's and other security dangers have a harder time landing on your computer using Firefox. Since it is not built in to your Operating System you are able to disable things much easier.

Although Firefox has many qualities at times there are a few disadvantages. Firefox does not have the ability by default to read Microsoft Active X Controllers. There are plug-ins however on certain pages, you still may need to use Internet Explorer. In my browsing experience this has happened to me twice in five years. I am on the Internet up to 10 hours a day so this occasion seems rare.

Along with already release enhancements regular updates for Mozilla Firefox are given. Certainly for ease of use, portability, fast browsing and ease of use Firefox is a choice for anyone.

Internet Fraud Watch: The Most Common Scams

Imagine this scenario, you are at your computer and you begin reading your email. Among all of the messages from friends or the garbage email you are getting, you notice EBay has sent you a message. A serious malfunction has happened in one of there databases. They need you to follow the URL link in your email, and begin to update your information. Of course you trust EBay, so you once again, you reenter your email address, your real address, your phone number, and finally everything was correct but they did have your credit card number wrong. As you want them to have all of your information, you enter you credit card number, and do not even hesitate before clicking submit.

I explained this scenario, the exact way it has happened for thousands of people. It's important you read this article carefully. It may just save your identity. The email you received, you may not have guessed, is a carefully thought out fake. Companies such as EBay, Paypal, your bank, or any other financial institution; will never send you an email asking you to enter such sensitive information. They also do not have members of there organization contact you over the phone, or by email, asking for specific identification nor verification.

If you have received an email such as this, it is a false forgery, and its purpose is to defraud you of whatever money or information it can. Today's internet criminals use sophisticated tools to steal your important assets. Let's discuss a few of these now.

Ø Email, forged to look like the address it came from is whomever they are using. Most of the time, this is EBay, Paypal, your bank, or another internet icon, they can use to earn your trust.

Ø A Spoofed URL, they are carefully planned to look like they are coming from the company in question.

Ø Stolen Web Designs, you are directed to a site that looks like it is the company they have used to bait you.

Ø A Professional Demeanor, the pages do not have misspelled words, the forms look professional, and they are well thought out and put together.

The goal of this internet criminal is to make you give up your information. I am sure that this may make you feel like you may want to give up, and stop using your computer all together. However there are many ways to combat these criminals, and simple tips to make your internet browsing be safer.

Ø Install a spam filter for your computer.

Ø Do not answer emails asking for sensitive information.

Ø Do not use email linked urls to visit sites, unless you are absolutely positive it came from the company it says it has.

Ø Always change information by logging into the actual websites of these companies.

Ø Triple check that a URL is,,, or whatever institution you're visiting, before you ever enter sensitive information.

Ø Never answer sensitive questions from people calling you, only do this if you have called them.

Ø In addition to the above steps, always make sure you have anti-virus, and anti-spy ware programs installed.

Following these steps and making them a habit, will ensure your safe browsing on the internet. It is important for me to repeat, these companies, or any other will never ask you for sensitive information directly. Before you become a victim, make sure to educate yourself on these safe practices. An internet criminal, will find new ways to try and steal from you. Don't give them the opportunity. Protect yourself now.

Technology Must-Haves: Knoppix, Puppy Linux and Backtrack Linux Live CDs

Linux Live CD's are a great way to introduce yourself to the Linux operating system. You do not have to end your reliance on the Windows operating system and you have the ability to see what the other side has to offer. Many Live CD's are available for download. Puppy Linux, Backtrack, and Knoppix are some popular Live CD distributions.

In todays world Linux has grown up. Driver support is one area that has finally gotten much easier than it ever was before. Many drivers are auto recognized simply and easily. This is especially helpful when using a laptop and a wireless connection. You automatically have a connection to the World Wide Web.

For desktops there are two major choices, KDE and Gnome. Both of these desktops have become very comparable to Windows. Each of these have the built in Linux option to have two desktops at one time. Knoppix even offers a 3d desktop option and the graphics are out of this world. One of the more popular things the world of Linux has always offered is comparable software that is free. Several word processing suites, many graphics packages, media players and games are all offered for no price.

Many activities that are harder in Windows become easier with Linux. These Live Linux versions also automatically recognize your Windows files. On the other hand with all of the achievements that Linux has made, it is still not ready to compete hand in hand with Microsoft.

Some of the issues you can run across still affect major operating areas. Sometimes you have to manually enter information that most users would not know. I would generally always recommend trying Linux to a technical savvy person. However it is not for the faint hearted and if you do not have a lot of technical knowledge I would hold off loading any Linux version.

Linspire has gone a long way to release a user friendly Linux version. This should not be considered an option for a technical person. However for the layman who just wants a computer that works the way it should Linspire may be an option for you.

No matter what you decide Linux is here to stay. Several hundred thousand developers world wide are doing there best to improve the Linux system In the next few years we may very well see these operating systems being able to take on Windows in a very real way. For a small time Windows Vista was being considered to run on a Unix back-end. For a long time Apple has ran on a Unix back-end based on FreeBSD.

With so many developers and technicians contributing to the Linux operating system, it will not take long for it to become a viable alternative to Windows. Using these Live CD's will give you a wonderful ability to test the waters.